For the 42nd year in a row, 94-year-old Willie Crosina has wrangled together a sizable crew for his annual bus tour later this month to the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
Moving from its 44-year home in Edmonton, this year’s CFR will be held in Red Deer, Alta. at Westerner Park from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4.
Crosina — a longtime Williams Lake Stampede director and avid supporter of Williams Lake High School Rodeo athletes — expects a troupe of about 40 people to hop on the bus, departing from Prince George on Oct. 29, to make the roughly seven-hour trip to witness the top cowboys in the country compete for a Canadian title.
“We had some good times in Edmonton,” Crosina said. “So we’ll see how things work out at the new venue in Red Deer.”
The idea to organize a bus trip to the CFR started many years ago while Crosina was working for Riley and McCormick Western Store in the mall.
“I was sitting there having coffee with a guy from Cariboo Travel, and I just mentioned I was thinking about going,” Crosina said. “About a week later he said, ‘Well, if you really want to go and can get 12 others to go you and your wife can go for free.’ That year we ended up with 14 people going.”
The tour continued to grow, and attract more people. Crosina noted one several years ago where they needed two buses — the most being 92 people who attended the trip from throughout B.C.
During his time organizing the bus trip, Crosina said he’s made many additional friends in Williams Lake, and several more on the road.
“Some have passed on now, but we’ve made a lot of friends,” he said. “People look forward to it every year, and I think the friends we’ve made with people who work at the rodeo in Edmonton stands out. There’s this one usher. She works at the top of the stairs where we had our seats, and she always asks to work in our section.”
Crosina said he’s also met many rodeo contestants at the CFR over the years who he still considers good friends.
A highlight for Crosina came during last year’s tour.
On the very first night of the CFR, the announcer spent a few moments recognizing longtime fans in the crowd. Crosina was among them.
“They shined the spotlight on each of us, one after the other, and when they got to me I was last, and one of the rodeo announcers up there got to interview me and I got to make a speech,” Crosina said.
“It was very, very touching for me in my life — just the fact we stood up there and they named us. A young lady came up to me shortly after. It just happened to be Tim Moffat’s granddaughter, and he was my cousin. She’d never met me but she came up to say hello.”
For this year’s tour, Crosina said he still has some tickets left.
The cost is $1,325 per person which includes hotel, transportation, each rodeo performance and shuttles to and from the rodeo.
At this year’s CFR Crosina added he’s looking forward to cheering on Kamloops’ Gavin DeRose in the bareback riding event and, of course, meeting new people and making new friends.
“It’s the friends we’ve made, and the ones who’ve gone with us, and even the people who sit around us.”