CLOVERDALE â€” There were a few firsts for this year’s Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, which celebrated its 69th year of rodeo action and 127th year of family fun.
It was the first large event under the province’s new liquor laws, with a site-wide license instead of booze being limited to beer gardens.
"With the exception of the midway and the kids areas, you could sit and watch the lumberjack show, mom and dad and the kids, and dad could have a beer," said rodeo president Shannon Claypool. "We were kind of the trial balloon to test the new laws in B.C. The liquor laws changed, and everyone else was waiting back. We had the courage to do it, so we took it on."
And all went well on that front, he noted.
Also, this was the first time rodeo performances were streamed live on the Wrangler Network. While the rodeo has streamed its own performances in the past, it did so independently. And this new move proved popular. Before Monday, the Cloverdale performances garnered more than 40,000 hits from around the world.
â€œWhat was very interesting to me was we had hits from Saudi Arabia and all over the Middle East and all over Britain. Youâ€™d think western Canada and the U.S. down in Oklahoma and Texas â€“ and yes, Texas was our biggest number of hits â€“ but weâ€™re getting viewership worldwide,â€ Claypool said proudly.
Check it out at Wranglernetwork.com.
â€œSam Dunn from Wrangler Network said we need to tell our story because what Cloverdale Rodeo has done by changing our format and getting rid of the controversial events, weâ€™re a world class event,â€ he continued. â€œI believe in 20 years people will be saying Cloverdale Rodeo was a leader in the industry.â€
While the rodeo garnered international attention online, locals too turned out in force. Even with expanded rodeo seating, shows completely sold out Saturday and Sunday afternoon and nearly sold out Monday.
In all, some 85,000 people flocked to the fair throughout the four-day affair and 23,000 fans took in the rodeo.
DRUNKEN TEENS KEPT POLICE BUSY AT RODEO
Teenaged revelry kept Surrey Mounties busy at the fairgrounds over the long weekend, especially on Friday night.
Sgt. Dale Carr, in charge of policing public events, said more than 160 boys and girls ages 13 to 18 were kicked out of the midway this weekend for unruly behaviour and drunkenness.
Carr said many teens snuck mickey bottles of vodka and whiskey into the grounds. Some were too intoxicated to take care of themselves and police had to phone their parents to come get them.
He said this Friday was "pretty crazy" compared to last year’s rodeo, as far as underage drinking went in and around the rides.
"Youth were the bulk of our time," he said. "I found it difficult to walk without kicking an empty mickey bottle."
The drinking led to fights. "There were a few bloody noses and fat lips and black eyes."
After the midway closed at midnight Friday, teens gathered at a nearby McDonalds and a Chevron station offsite, again keeping police busy.
He said the problem was "reduced" by Saturday night as more police officers were deployed to patrol the midway.
Fortunately there weren’t any serious assaults, such as stabbings.
"If we weren’t there the potential for harm would be extremely high," Carr said. "We have a very low tolerance for buffoonery."
Adults, on the other hand, behaved how adults should. Carr said the Longhorn Saloon, which holds about 1,600, was well managed and new provincial liquor laws permitting people to carry their drinks around the rodeo grounds did not make for problems.
"The whole liquor permit thing worked quite well," Carr noted. "I can say unequivocally the liquor associated to the event liquor permit, we had very few issues related to that."
Carr said the zone where rodeo patrons could carry their liquor around was restricted to the north end of the grounds, near the food trucks, while the midway was a no-booze zone. Officially, at least.
Despite the underage drinking and hooliganism, Carr said this year’s rodeo was, "overall, a great event."
He said next year there will be strict and thorough bag checks and any teen caught with alcohol on their breath will be immediately ejected.
‘KIDS ARE KIDS’
Rodeo President Shannon Claypool said mickeys – small 375ml bottles of booze – are a real challenge come rodeo time. "The problem is, we do bag check, we do everything we can, and if I had my way they wouldn’t sell mickeys in Cloverdale Surrey or Langley the week before rodeo," he said. "What’s the purpose of a mickey? The purpose of a mickey is to be able to sneak it somewhere.
"We had a liquor inspector there all four days and there was no liquor being sold to underage, it was liquor being smuggled in. We have a very good security company but at the end of the day kids are going to do what kids are going to do, and with personal rights and personal privacy, there’s only so much you can do to inspect it. But any person that came to the gates that was intoxicated was refused entry.
"There’s always some issues, it’s no different than any other big event," he said.