39TH STOMPEDE DEEMED SUCCESS DESPITE RAIN

amberBy LOGAN CLOW

Daily Herald-Tribune

Another stompin’ success.

That’s how the 2016 Grande Prairie Stompede organizing committee is dubbing the 39th annual Stompede, which ran May 25-29 at Evergreen Park.

“I believe attendance was on par with last year. It might have been down a little bit, but the weather didn’t keep us Grande Prairians away, that’s for sure,” said Trevor Denis, vice-president of the 2016 Stompede committee, eluding to the weekend’s mix of rain and cool temperatures.

“I think the fans are the No. 1 thing (that make Stompede a success). Without them, we don’t have a show. And our cowboys, they’re the best cowboys in the world here and the best wagon racers are here too, so having that draws a crowd for us.”

In past, the Stompede has typically brought in 25,000-30,000 spectators.

This year’s event was the first stop on the 2016 World Professional Chuckwagon Association, Western Chuckwagon Association and All-Pro Chuckwagon and Chariot Association Taste the Dust Pro Tour circuits.

The rodeo, which included competitors from across North America competing in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, novice saddle bronc, novice bareback, ladies barrel racing, steer riding and team roping, was also the first stop on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s Wrangler Canadian Tour Rodeo.

Though the large amounts of rain made the Gordon Badger Stadium track and infield muddy for competitors, Denis said the event’s grounds crew ensured it was in excellent shape.

“(The muddy track/infield) makes it a little bit more difficult for everybody, but everybody out here is professional and they’re used to that. They have probably one of the best track groups in Canada out here and I think everything went really well,” said Denis.

A primary focus with this year’s Stompede was programming for families and children. In addition to having a kids’ zone with bouncy castles and a digging in the dirt sand pit, school programming, clown Ricky Ticky Wanchuk and professional trick rider Niki Flundra, Denis said one of the Stompede’s most popular attractions was having Amber Marshall, who plays Amy on CBC television show ‘Heartland’, in attendance.

Marshall, visiting Grande Prairie for the first time, took part in various luncheons, equine Q&A’s, and meet-and-greets.

Heartland has been recently renewed for a 10th season and Marshall told the crowd on Saturday afternoon that she expects the new season to be air sometime this fall.

“(Amy’s) a big star here in Canada. She has lots of fans. We sold out every event with her, so it was good. It was a success with her,” said Denis, adding their programming focus attracted more children and families.

Another popular entertainment draw, noted Denis, was the nightly beer garden entertainment on Friday and Saturday from headliners Aaron Pritchett and Jess Moskaluke.

Denis said now the focus shifts to planning the 2017 Stompede, which will mark the event’s 40th year.

“We’ve actually put together a committee (for it) in the last few months that are past-presidents, fans and sponsors of our show. We’re looking forward to (next year) for sure,” said Denis.

“It’s a big year for us and definite milestone for the Peace Country. It should be even bigger and better next year.”