DAWSON CREEK, B.C.- The over-a-century-old Dawson Creek Exhibition and Stampede event kicked off Wednesday, showcasing the cultural and agricultural aspects of the Peace region.
The 101st annual event runs until August 13th at the exhibition grounds and features a rodeo, chuckwagon races, a midway and other summer adventures.
Connie Patterson, president of the Dawson Creek Exhibition Association, says the event is the biggest in the Peace region, and visitors can anticipate exciting activities that provide a peek into the region’s diverse local culture.
“Beyond its celebration of culture, the Dawson Creek Exhibition and Stampede plays a vital role in boosting the local economy,” says Patterson.
She believes the event preserves the Peace region’s historic rituals and traditions and serves as an economic catalyst, uniting the community to drive regional growth.
The event’s origins are deeply intertwined with Patterson’s family, who have played a pivotal role in the event since its inception. She recalls the homestead farmers from Rolla, North Rolla, and Pouce Coupe who came together to celebrate the harvest and trade livestock.
Within three weeks, the farmers built a rodeo track, corrals, chutes, and a food pavilion. They also played baseball and raced wagons while the women cooked and traded wares, according to Patterson.
“Being an agricultural town, our goal is to represent the agricultural economy by showing cattle shows, heavy horses, light horses, 4-H, Ilamas, goats, and sheep in the agriculture fair,” says Patterson.
She says a popular event among the exhibition crowd are the “Indian Relay Races.”
“The races are a significant and popular event rooted in Indigenous traditions. This thrilling horse racing competition showcases athleticism, horsemanship, and cultural heritage.”
The relay race is a First Nations traditional event where teams consist of one rider, three horses, two holders, and a mugger.
The race starts with a “standing start,” and racers run only one lap around the track, changing horses twice.
Patterson feels it is important to reintroduce such historical events and remind non-Indigenous community members of First Nations’ cultural roots and the value of keeping Indigenous traditions alive.
There will also be a youth “Indian Relay Race” before the adult categories, in which the kids will ride shetland ponies.
“The exhibition and stampede have always respected First Nations culture and their land. Throughout the beginning, the event organizers put a lot of effort into engaging with traditional games of Indigenous communities to represent the true identity of the Peace region.”
Patterson says there will also be a 4-H steer auction Saturday night and a gospel festival on Sunday.
This year’s Rotary parade has a new route to avoid crossing 8th Street. The parade starts at 10 a.m on August 11th.
To view the full event schedule, visit daswoncreekex.ca.