With summer just around the corner, the Hand Hills Lake Stampede gears up for its 101st weekend on June 2, 3, 4 with special guest Charlie Fielding.
Organizer Marilyn Vredegoor explained to the Mail, why Fielding was such an important person for the event. With 98 years of experience, he is thought to be ‘Canadian through and through.’
“We saw that one way to celebrate Canada’s 150 would be to have somebody that has served our country and made it where it is,” said Vredegoor. “He’s pretty proud of what he did in the war and he’s pretty proud of what’s going on now.”
For the past 40 years, the rodeo has named a special guest from the community in honor of their efforts.
Approximately 23 years ago, Fielding gathered other veterans in the area during the Remembrance Day season and ventured to local schools to share their experiences with little ones.
Parents would arrive to the schools and see the same man that told them stories when they were kids now share the same stories with their own children.
“He very outgoing and friendly and extraordinarily helpful to any type of person,” said niece-in-law Maureen Benedict.
Benedict was the one to ask Fielding to take on the special position. His reaction was very appreciative and humble.
“He takes everything in stride, nothing phases him,” said Benedict. “He was the good guy volunteer on CFCN.”
The Hanna J.C.Charyk school grade one class visits the lodge for an afternoon once a week. Each child is paired up with a senior or ‘buddy’. Fielding’s buddy is more than just a buddy but a real pal.
“It’s not something that they have to do because of school, their buddies,” said Benedict. “He really, really enjoys the kids.”
After 98 years, Fielding finally gave up his driver’s license and car this year.
“He’s started to get a little bit shaky walking and stuff – it’s not quite as easy for him but his mind is sharp as a tack,” said Benedict.
The original intent of the rodeo was to fundraise money for the Red Cross and their war efforts but now has transformed into a cowboy cultural tradition and heart of the Hand Hills area.
Fielding will be stationed at certain spots throughout the weekend where visitors can chat and get to know this year’s special guest.
The rodeo itself as well as room for camping, trade shows, bouncy castles for little ones, pony chuckwagon racing, a cabaret on Saturday evening, and a pie eating contest.
“We are pretty famous for our homemade pies at the booth – it’s quite a popular place,” said Vredegoor.
As well as fun activities throughout the weekend, you can comfortably stay at the campground for all the action.
“There’s lots of camping and you’re right up close and personal – you are right next to the arena,” said Vredegoor.
The Hanna based band ‘The 5 of Diamonds’ will be playing for the kickoff party on the Friday and Lisa Dodd as well as Garrett Buchfink will be performing.
With over 15 hours of rodeo, the event is a definite crowd pleaser for locals and tourists alike.
“It’s a lot of rodeo and you’re right there like if you are sitting in the bleachers you are 10, 15 feet away,” said Vredegoor. “It’s a real family affair.”
The rodeo would not be where it is today without the tireless hours put in by hundreds of volunteers in the area. Service groups come in and deal with parking and security like the Delia figure skating club.
“I think we have the best volunteers in the world,” said Vredegoor. “We’re pretty fortunate.”