North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo called off for the 2nd time in a row due to COVID-19

·2 min read
The North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo in Barriere, B.C. has been cancelled for the second year in a row.  (Mikael Kjellstrom/North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Facebook page - image credit)
The North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo in Barriere, B.C. has been cancelled for the second year in a row. (Mikael Kjellstrom/North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Facebook page - image credit)

A 70-year-old rodeo in B.C.'s central Interior has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo event has been held every Labour Day long weekend since 1950 in Barriere — about 64 kilometres north of Kamloops. It normally attracts more than 15,000 people from Barriere and beyond.

Jill Hayward, president of the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association in Barriere, says she feels "crushed" by the event cancellation but believes this is the right thing to do.

"I guess it's the worst if you cancel it one year and then, heaven forbid, we've got to cancel it again," Hayward told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "But it was the right decision to make, and we have to move on from there and do something else."

Although public health rules banning large gatherings could change by September, Hayward said organizers couldn't take a wait-and-see attitude.

"It [the event] is not something you can pull a rabbit out of the hat within a month and go ahead and have a fair," she said.

Jill Hayward, the president of North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association, says cancelling the annual cowboy event under the current public health restrictions is the right thing to do.
Jill Hayward, the president of North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association, says cancelling the annual cowboy event under the current public health restrictions is the right thing to do.(Submitted by Jill Hayward)

The association said in a statement it plans instead to organize a drive-thru Fall Fair event — where only 50 vehicles are allowed on the 27-acre fairground to view animal displays and performances by clowns and loggers — just as it did last September.

The rodeo couldn't be included because the design of the fairground means there are no good views from inside a car, says Hayward.

Even though the rodeo is cancelled, a drive-thru fair is planned for September where visitors will be able to watch performances from their cars.
Even though the rodeo is cancelled, a drive-thru fair is planned for September where visitors will be able to watch performances from their cars.(Mikael Kjellstrom/North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Facebook page)

In March, the Williams Lake Stampede Association called off its century-old annual rodeo scheduled for June and July of this year, after the same event was cancelled last year.

But in Alberta, the Calgary Stampede is scheduled to go ahead in July.

Hayward says the fairground's annual operation cost of $80,000 have always been covered by revenues from the rodeo and facility rentals, pre-pandemic. Those have now dried up.

But her association has come up with creative ways to raise funds, such as selling plants and rabbit manure fertilizer.

And she already has big ideas for next year.

"We'll be back bigger and better in 2022," Hayward said. "We've got some great ideas. We're not going to let those out of the bag yet."