Get ready for a bronc-busting good time.
The 94th annual Falkland Stampede bursts out of the gate Saturday, with the action continuing until Victoria Day Monday.
“It’s going to be one of our best ones ever,” said Ozzie Leaf, a longtime volunteer.
“It’s a real family atmosphere and some people have been coming for 40 years.”
There are 357 entries — the largest in a decade.
“We’ve got a lot of Americans coming in and the bare back and bronc riding entries are up,” said Jason Churchill, stampede manager.
“That’s really good for the rodeo fans.”
Among the cowboys that will be there are Vernon’s Wade Marchand and Ty Ellott.
“In the saddlebronc riding, Ty’s brother Clay Elliott will be competing against guys from Australia, the U.S. and Alberta,” said Leaf.
Cowboys participate for a total prize purse of more than $45,000.
The event generally draws upwards of 5,000 people over the three days.
“It’s one of the oldest rodeos in Canada and it’s what people do on the May long weekend,” said Churchill.
“The other attraction is we’re also a professional rodeo with top-end cowboys. We put everything we can into the rodeo.”
That means bringing in Northcott rodeo stock, the Crazy Cowgirls trick riders, announcer Les McIntyre and Dennis Halstead, the 2011 rodeo entertainer of the year.
“Without the support of our sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Churchill.
Also critical is the army of volunteers behind the scenes, with most residents in the town of 500 lending a hand.
“It’s a huge community effort,” said Churchill, adding that non-profit groups also run concession stands and other activities to fundraise.
“Everything in the town is basically funded by the rodeo.”
Leaf has been involved with the stampede for more than 50 years.
“I get pumped up every time the rodeo comes along because of what it does for the community,” he said.
The theme for this year’s stampede is a tribute to native cowboys.
“There are some incredible cowboys there. They are naturally talented,” said Churchill of the tradition among Okanagan and Shuswap First Nations.
It’s expected members of the Okanagan Indian Band will participate in Sunday’s parade at 1 p.m. on Highway 97.
Rodeo action begins at 1 p.m. at the Highway 97 stampede grounds, while it starts at 2 p.m. Sunday.
On Monday, there is a heavy horse pull at 10 a.m. and the rodeo at 1 p.m.
There will also be a kids’ calf scramble all three days and a cowboy church at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students and children under six are free. An adult three-day pass is $40 while a family-day pass is $45.
For more information, call 250-375-2577 or go to www.falklandstampede.ca.