FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The 19th annual Halfway River Valley Rodeo Roundup is coming back this summer.

The 19th edition features 15 events from bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, and the event that’s sure to put a smile on every face, the kids’ sheep riding.

The vice president of the Halfway River Rodeo Club, Jeffery Metecheah, says the decision to cancel the 2020 rodeo was difficult, but it was for the best.

“We had to cancel in 2020 because of COVID-19. We were starting to plan our rodeo, but it got Chief and Council concerned, and they decided to cancel it,” said Metecheah.

Bringing people together during the pandemic could have raised the risk of transmission, something that was not worth it for a weekend of rodeo.

“They wanted to protect the elders and those that are vulnerable and are living with poor health conditions.”

Entrants come from far and wide to the Halfway River First Nation Rodeo Grounds, says Metecheah.

“We get entries from all over southern B.C., northern Alberta, further east; we get people coming from all over the place.”

While it probably comes as no surprise, Metecheah says the most popular event is bull riding.

“Bull riding is what attracts most of the fans. They like the rough stock, they like the danger end of it, the bucking horses and the bulls. We always get lots of entries in all those events.”

Speaking of stock, the bulk of entries on the animal side will come from ranches in the immediate vicinity.

“We’ve got Hunter Buckers from Halfway; they’re our main contractor. We’ve got Triple Diamond from PG and CX Cattle from Charlie Lake, Johnson Bucking Bulls from Dawson Creek, and Clayton Moore cattle from Pouce Coupe, so all the stock is local to the area. We always try to support local.”

Some of the locals have the opportunity to get out and practice their skills without the pressure of competition.

“On Father’s Day, we had a little bbq and a bull buck-out. It was a beautiful, sunny day, everyone enjoyed themselves, it was just a good day.”

Metecheah says for bull riding, it’s all about keeping it simple.

“Bull riding is just basic; you reach out for the front, get square, get a hold with your spurs, all you’re doing is trying to match your movements with the bull’s, jump for jump. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s possible.”

Even the toughest cowboy gets a little nervous before a ride, says Metecheah.

“Usually, you’re a little nervous, but you get on with it. You’ve entered already, you signed up, it’s your name coming over the speaker. There’s always a little nerves, but you keep it out of your mind and concentrate on what you’re trying to do.”

As for local celebrities and big names planning on attending the 19th edition of the Halfway River Valley Rodeo Roundup, Metecheah says there are plenty.

“We’ve had the famous lady bronc rider Kaila Mussell, she might come again, but she’s on the injury list right now. Daryl Mills is probably our biggest celebrity; he’s a PBR co-founder, Canadian Champion and World Champion. So for us, we have the best of the best helping us.”

To top things off, this year, there will be a hand game tournament that is sure to be fun for everyone involved.

“This year, we’re having hand game tournaments, which is an old stick game that goes back centuries. So there will be a hand game tournament on Saturday evening after the rodeo. It should be a lot of fun because the whole time you’re playing, you’re laughing, you’re enjoying yourself, so it’s just great.”

Metecheah says athletes will go home with a great experience either way, but the top five athletes will go home with cold, hard cash.

“We do all the payouts as a cash payout each day to the top five competitors. Traditionally in rodeo, sixth place is a “crying hole,” so if you’re in the top five, you make money. If you’re in sixth place, you get a handshake and a pat on the back.”

Events like this would not be possible without some help, says Metecheah.

“Thanks to all of our sponsors for the last 20 years, partnering with us to bring a little bit of fun to all the communities. We get support from the Northern BC High School Rodeo, those kids get a chance to hone their skills and get scholarships, so it’s a really good, positive event all the way around for us.”

Metecheah comes from a rodeo background, competing in everything from roping to bull riding. But he says bull riding will always be his favourite.

The Halfway River Valley 19th Rodeo Roundup will go Friday, August 20th and 21st at the Halfway River First Nation Arena. Local entries can register from August 11th to 13th.