By Sue Bryant,
The Rodeo is well-known for its competitive events – and the contest for Rodeo Queen was no exception.
In the early years, the competition for Rodeo Queen was sponsored by local businesses in order to sell advance tickets to the rodeo. Each contestant would receive 100 votes per advance ticket sold, and each ticket cost $1.50.
In 1950, the first Cloverdale Rodeo queen, Patricia Kronebusch, was crowned with a big white Stetson by Sam Shannon, the president of the Lower Fraser Valley Athletic Association. Thus began a storied and honoured tradition for the Cloverdale Rodeo that would become as important as the rodeo events themselves in the decades to come.
It was an honour for the contestants to represent their community and, by all accounts, they also had a lot of fun. The Surrey Leader reported that on the way back from attending the Wild West Show in Sedro-Wooley, Wash., one of the 1950 queen contestants caused a bit of a furor at the border.
The young women were full of excitement, and accompanied by a twenty-car convoy of well-wishers. All decked out in their best Western wear, complete with water pistols, they were a sight to behold. One of the contestants, who to this day remains nameless, had her good spirits get ahead of her and felt the need to draw her water pistol and shoot the border guard in the eye with her water pistol. He apparently “took a dim view of such proceedings.”
The following year, Barbara Curtis was crowned Rodeo Queen. The Curtis family was well known in Cloverdale and her mother Sybil ran the Curtis Dry Goods Store. Barbara represented the Cloverdale Legion and ran in honour of her father, the late Sergeant Cliff Curtis, who had passed unexpectedly in a training exercise during Second World War. That year, 12,000 attended the festivities and witnessed young Barbara crowned to represent her hometown.
One of the more unique events of the 1951 rodeo season was the performance of the famous travelling Australian hypnotist and magician, Dr. Robert “Tex” Morton. For a publicity stunt, he hypnotized retiring 1950 Rodeo Queen Patricia Kronebusch by telephone from Vancouver. She spent the day sleeping in a hypnotic state in the window of a local furniture store. At precisely 2 p.m., he woke her with a certain song on the radio and then put her back to sleep by singing another song to her. She was then brought out of her hypnotic state during his show that evening.
By 1958, the rodeo had grown significantly and had begun to take on a larger profile not only in the local community but in the professional rodeo circuit as well. It was time for the Rodeo Queen event to grow along as well. Going forward, the rodeo queen candidates would represent Horse and Agricultural Associations within three hours travel from Cloverdale. The contestants had to be between 16 and 19 years of age and had to agree, if successful, to represent the Cloverdale Rodeo association in other festivals and competitions for the year of their reign.
The competitors were equestrian athletes who were judged on riding ability, personality, general handling of the horse, cowgirl outfit and suitability of horse and rider. Linda Woods, sponsored by the Langley Agricultural Association, was crowned on her seventeenth birthday, becoming the first professional Rodeo Queen of the Cloverdale Rodeo.
British Columbia’s centennial celebration was also in 1958, which provided the opportunity to host several other unique competitions. The first annual “Paper Carrier’s Contest” for newspaper deliverers was held that year. In order to enter, the carrier had to deliver their routes by horseback more than half of the time.
The Whisker Derby was also a popular contest that year; more than 300 entrants registered to compete the honour and glory of being named the best beard. Don Malman of New Westminster was awarded the proud title of Whisker King. Along with enviable bragging rights, he also won a coonskin hat, a trophy and $100. Other awards were presented for curliest beard, most unique, scraggliest, best sideburns, best moustache and best goatee.
The Cloverdale Rodeo Queen and her royal team developed a strong reputation for their skills in events as far afield as the Calgary Stampede, Seattle Sea Festival and Peach Fest.
With each passing year, the competition between the ladies representing their clubs became passionate and proud. The horsemanship shows would often sell out in the lead up to the crowning of the Queen and her Princesses as the elite athletes showed their poise, and ability to compete with dead accuracy.
Sue Bryant is an oral historian and a member of the Surrey Historical Society. She is also a digital photo restoration artist, genealogist and volunteers at the Surrey Museum and Surrey Archives.