Val Marie Rodeo – From Nervous to Knowledge

by Laureen on September 19, 2012

Sundown, Rodeo Friday, my street

There were horses everywhere. Horses in the vacant lot behind my house, horses next to the Village office, horses in the ball diamond. Horses all over town. And men with really big hats. Rodeo Queen candidates selling last-minute tickets. (Ticket sales are how the Queen crown is awarded – it’s very egalitarian, if you’re an extrovert.) A trade fair in the village Hall. A beer garden in the arena. Busy-ness at the Whitemud Grocery. Music all weekend in the Val Marie Hotel, rodeo events both Friday and Saturday evenings and a rodeo dance on Saturday night, then Little Britches rodeo all day Sunday. Trucks, horse trailers, campers,vans, cars, lining Centre Street street and most of the other streets in town. More traffic coming south on the highway than I’ve ever seen. Val Marie Rodeo weekend, September 15 – 17, 2012. The 48th Annual Bob Larson Memorial Indoor Rodeo. It turned out to be the biggest one in years.

Val Marie Rodeo serves several functions. It’s a harvest celebration. It’s a major amateur competition venue for riding and cattle-working skills. It’s a party. It’s a chance for the town to show what it can do. It’s also one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the local recreation board. Everybody pitches in. You pay your $10 entry fee at the door and your $10 for the rodeo dance, you buy drinks at the hotel and tickets from the Queen candidate, and you buy and eat burgers and fries in the arena lobby. And you work.

People were really glad this year that Rodeo was so well-attended, and one good reason is that it brought in, as someone said, “outside money”. In very small communities, it can sometimes  seem that we all pay to keep ourselves alive. Not this weekend – there were lots of contributors of cash from other communities. But the work – that’s provided by the folks right here.

Chutes are set up. The rodeo stock and the competition entries and the MC and the judges have to be organized. The ambulance is on call in case a competitor gets hurt. The beer garden is staffed and the trade show is set up and the band practices and plays and the hotel staff sell drinks. And someone coordinates arena kitchen shifts so people can buy those burgers and fries.

The kitchen was my assignment. I was on for Sunday afternoon, right at the end of the weekend’s events, me and four other people. I thought we might find it a bit dull, if everyone was winding down. I needn’t have worried. We took orders and people’s money and poured coffee and hot chocolate and mochas and handed over chocolate bars and candy bags and we cut buns and flipped burgers and fried French fries and fed the multitudes. And when the multitudes had gone home we cleaned up.

It can be fun working the kitchen, and it was a great group. Ashley and Heather, who work with animal conservation programs in one of Canada’s true wild spaces, Daniel, local rancher, Joy, rancher and school teaching assistant, and Joy’s husband Paul, Grasslands National Park asset management staff and rancher who took over when Ashley had to leave to look after her weekend houseguests. We moved that fried food on outa there.

The first time I worked a kitchen shift at the rink (as the arena is in winter), I was pretty nervous. But I liked being asked, because it meant someone thought I belonged. Now I can manage orders and flip burgers with flare. Now I feel like this is a skill, one that both contributes and rewards.

And the transition between nervous and knowledge? Somebody showed me how. That’s all it takes.

If you are an artist, or you’d like to find out if you are, whether you want to develop your skills or dip your metaphorical toes in the paint water for the first time, please check out a Grasslands Painting Retreat. We can show you how. Places are filling up. Don’t miss it.


Kristy Reimers-Loader September 21, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks for posting this, Laureen. It’s always a bit sad for me this time of year, to think of the Rodeo and not being able to be there to take part in all the fun, but you’ve brought it to life for me again a little bit, and I appreciate it. I hope your Retreat goes well!

Laureen September 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Kristy, it’s great to have this response from some one who knows what it means. And thank you for your good wishes.

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