Paul Orazietti says he wants to put the “old” back into the “Grand, Old Rodeo.”
To do that, he says he’s looking toward the past to bring back old rodeo events.
“It dovetails with who we are,” explained Orazietti, the executive director of the Cloverdale BIA. “We’re an old town. So the idea is to say, ‘Here’s what we looked like. Here’s what we did.’”
This year marks the 75th Cloverdale Rodeo and the 132nd iteration of the Country Fair. Bot events are less than two months away and planning is in full swing.
It’ll be the first rodeo since 2019 after cancellations because of COVID (2020 and 2021) and because of structural problems with the Stetson Bowl (2022). (Although the Lower Mainland has had one rodeo in that time, the Valley West Stampede was held at Langley Riders Arena on Labour Day weekend in 2022.)
Orazietti said he’s working on several events for “Rodeo Weekend” in May (Victoria Day weekend).
“The BIA is organizing the rodeo parade and the bed races,” he noted. “I’m also working on a couple of other events, but they’re still in the planning stages.”
Orazietti said he’s teaming up with the B.C. Truck Museum in an attempt to create a display in the Alice McKay Building that will recognize the history of Cloverdale’s Fire Hall No. 8 and its history, which encompasses the volunteer firefighters that once worked there.
“I’m on a committee that’s organizing the rodeo and they have a Lego display and one of the feature items is a recreation of Hall No. 8,” explained Orazietti. “So I’d like to get a real fire truck to put beside it and showcase the history of our past volunteer fire department and to go back and talk about the men that worked there.”
He said some of the old volunteer firefighters passed away during the pandemic and he wants to honour them as part of the display.
“What I’m hoping to do is put in a firefighter display and have a number of projectors showcasing old photographs from the fire hall days and from the rodeo,” he said. “ The idea would be to put some vehicles in there and piggyback off the (recent) immersive van Gogh exhibit by projecting the images in a larger-than-life way.”
He said the idea would be to put together a couple of different shows that can be projected on a loop playing throughout the day, one about the fair and rodeo, the town, and the firefighter history.
Some of the other events the committee has talked about resurrecting are the rodeo’s beard-growing contest, the tug-of-war contest, and the famous lumberjack contest. Orazietti cautioned, however, that nothing has officially been decided yet.
In terms of the parade, the route will be the same as in previous years and Orazietti said he already has four entries signed up.
The 2023 Cloverdale Rodeo Parade will start a 10 a.m May 20 from the corner of 177B Street and Highway 10. It will wind its way west on No. 10 and turn up 176th Street. The parade will then turn east on 58A Avenue before heading north on 176A Street. On 60th Avenue, the parade will turn east again and then head south on 177B Street before ending at 58 Avenue.
Orazietti said planning for the bed races is well underway with teams already signed up and few rivalry races already planned.
“We have a Langley high school, Brookswood I believe, that’s already challenged Lord Tweedsmuir right off the bat. The firefighters are in and a lot of others are too. So the words getting out and people are really excited about the bed races.”
Orazietti said the chili cook off may be cancelled again.
“A new company has taken over the management of Clover square village,” he noted. “They need about four months advance notice before planning an event. So we may have missed the window on that. It’s not 100 per cent cancelled, but I don’t think we have enough time to get it going.”