Surrey’s historic heart to celebrate 70th Cloverdale Rodeo

Cloverdale's premiere event marks a milestone with fireworks, a headlining concert, and improved rodeo experience

Surrey, it’s time to pull on your boots, grab your hat and embrace your inner cowboy or cowgirl.

The city’s historic heart is set to host the 70th Cloverdale Rodeo and 128th Country Fair, launching with a bang Friday night with a fireworks display that will light up the sky in celebration.

They’re at 10 p.m. sharp (May 20) and viewed best from the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, winks Shannon Claypool, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association.

“Seventy years of history makes for an interesting challenge. You know the event is already a proven success yet you also have to ensure fans will be even more thrilled with what you have planned for an important anniversary year,” Claypool says.

At 70, the rodeo is one of the largest events of its kind, attracting 85,000 visitors over the May long weekend to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, and contributing between $5 million and $6 million to the local economy.

It’s an achievement that’s made all the more remarkable by the fact that it’s put on by a core group of one dozen employees and about 300 volunteers, says Claypool, who has been involved for nearly 20 years.

Friday’s fireworks, a headlining country music concert with Chad Brownlee Sunday, and a better than ever rodeo experience are a few of the treats in store for 2016.

The marquee attraction is the Cloverdale Invitational Rodeo, featuring the world’s best cowboys and cowgirls competing for cash prizes, along with the popular mutton-bustin’ competition for kids and more.

A new and improved Stetson Bowl hosts the rodeo performances, which saw more than 23,000 fans turn out last year.

It’s been renovated and reconfigured for the signature event, thanks to a six-figure investment, says Claypool.

The bucking chutes have been moved to face the grandstand, ensuring everyone enjoys a great view and feels more connected to the action.

The Express Clydesdales return this year for their second Cloverdale Rodeo to perform at the rodeo and in the parade, and win over new fans. They stand 18 hands high, and weigh about one ton each, and the team pulls a 3,000-pound wagon – the same one that carried the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the 2011 Calgary Stampede.

Music is another big part of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Former pro hockey star turned country music singer Chad Brownlee will be performing Sunday at the Longhorn Saloon. The popular, dance-friendly venue is one of the favoured attractions at the rodeo. It’s open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with performances by Ettinger & Big 50 and the Ken McCoy Band.

The BC Country Music Association hosts a pavilion, Boots and Buckles, featuring more than 50 artists performing throughout the weekend. The venue is open to all ages during the day (free admission), and at 8 p.m. becomes an adults only dance hall.

The live outdoor entertainment stage will showcase rising talents all weekend long, including BCCMA nominees Carli and Kennedy (Twin Kennedy), Robyn and Ryleigh, Appaloosa and the Chris Buck Band.

The Western Fine Arts Show will feature works by several dozen artists, with proceeds supporting the C.H.I.L.D. Foundation and the Cloverdale Youth Initiative Foundation, once again offering three, $1,000-scholarships to be awarded to secondary students in their graduation year who are past or present Cloverdale Rodeo volunteers.

The World Round-up Freestyle Skateboarding Championship is back for its fifth impressive year at the Cloverdale Rodeo, proving there’s an audience for an urban-flavoured rodeo competition. The competitors – top pros and amateurs from 11 countries – are vying for a share of $10,000 in prizes. (See story page 17.)

For many, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair’s ensuring appeal is that it’s remained a family-focused event.

“The country fair has everything from the kiddie rides up to livestock displays through to how to train to be a cowboy or cowgirl at the rec centre,” he said.

Families will enjoy the Country Fair, hosting the Cone Zone, Agri Zone and Kidz Zone, along with B.C.’s biggest traveling midway, with dozens of rides.

Admission is $25 for rodeo performances and $10 for entry to the country fair. Admission to both is free for kids aged 12 and under.

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