The worst-kept secret in Langford was confirmed Sunday when the head volunteers with the Luxton Pro Rodeo issued a joint statement saying the annual event has been cancelled.
The good news is that the annual fair, featuring the midway, Saturday night country dance, heritage displays and antique farm equipment and other activities will continue this year.
“Due to increasing costs, many due to living on an Island; the Luxton Pro-Rodeo Committee has decided the Luxton Pro-Rodeo Event is no longer economically viable,” wrote rodeo managers Sandy West and Charlie Price. “In order to continue to operate, there would have to be a substantial gate fee increase. We do not wish to put this burden on the public.”
Questions started being asked last week when it was pointed out that the event, a staple in Island rodeo for 39 years, was not shown on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s 2015 schedule.
Staffers at the CPRA office in Calgary indicated the paperwork hadn’t yet been received from the Luxton organizers, but said the online schedule was still considered “tentative.” A call to midway provider West Coast Amusements determined that a three-year contract was signed in 2013 for the Luxton Pro Rodeo for the May long weekend.
While it was unclear whether the CPRA omission simply resulted from a missed deadline at this end, or was more related to the increased pressure from anti-rodeo groups, the topic was generating a lot of conversation.
“If the rodeo is cancelled this year, I think it’s a huge win for the animals,” said Melissa de Muelles, longtime Langford resident and an organizer with Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events. “It was the last rodeo on Vancouver Island and I think it shows a sign of the times that businesses and people don’t want to be associated with inhumane events.”
The rodeo has come under attack in recent years from de Meulles’ group as well as the B.C. SPCA, which has criticized it for the inclusion of such events as tie-down calf roping, steer wrestling and children’s sheep riding.
Local protesters asked the City of Langford to intervene last year by banning certain events through city bylaws.
That tack didn’t work, as city staff and council members, including Mayor Stew Young, argued the city did not have jurisdiction over the animal-treatment aspect of the rodeo.
SPCA animal welfare manager Geoff Urton told the Gazette last May that his organization’s ability to work with law enforcement agencies to enforce animal cruelty laws does not extend to the treatment of animals under “accepted industry standards.”
De Meulles said she hopes the fair, which has always been a major draw for the community, would continue even if the rodeo were cancelled, saying she would happily bring her three children to the event.
“When I told them that the rodeo might be cancelled, they were so excited. This will be someplace I can take them over the May long weekend.”