Kispiox Valley Rodeo Celebrates History -- Looks Ahead to Future

As they celebrated their past, organizers of the Kispiox Valley Rodeo looked ahead to the future.

The rodeo marked its 70th anniversary over the weekend, and Association president Joy Allen says there's a very good reason for its enduring popularity.

"It's one of the only rodeos like it in the world -- we're one of the last rodeos where people can come and camp and rub shoulders with Canadian champion cowboys and have campfires and sing and dances on the ground and the beef barbecue is cooked in a boiler of an old paddlewheeler that used to come from Prince Rupert to Hazelton," she said.

Allen also marvelled at the continued support from local businesses, in spite of the fact that the Hazeltons are among the most economically-depressed areas of BC.

"The businesses and merchants in Hazeltons and Smithers are phenominal; they come out and support us 110 per cent, so we have the highest prize money in the British Columbia Rodeo Association, which is crazy because there's rodeos all over BC."

Acclaimed artist Roy Henry Vickers is Allen's vice president, and he celebrated his 71st birthday over the weekend. 

And he said his greatest hope now is that a new generation is getting ready to take the reins of the rodeo from those who have run it for so many years, once the veterans finally step down.

"Joy Allen is a force to be reckoned with and I doubt that we could find someone who could do what she does, but I pray that we could find TWO people who could replace her position," he said.

Vickers says the rodeo has always held a special place in his heart, and says it often finds its way into his artworks.

"I've created limited edition prints, I did `The Bronc Rider', I did a print called `War Paint' and it was a tribute to one of my heroes -- a bronc rider from when I was a young man, Kenny McLean."

[Reported by Dan Williams]