Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba Stampede: This isn't your grandpa's rodeo

New events brought in to mark Stampede's 50th anniversary

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Clint Desjardins competes in the eighth heat of the pony chuck wagon races at the Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition as it celebrates its 50th year this weekend.

JESSICA BURTNICK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Clint Desjardins competes in the eighth heat of the pony chuck wagon races at the Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition as it celebrates its 50th year this weekend. Photo Store

The Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition might not be as old as its Calgary counterpart, but with its 50th anniversary this year it still has seen its share of ups and downs.

Charles Covernton was there from the very start in 1964. He started out as a treasurer and has since retired. He said the stampede has changed significantly in his lifetime.

"At the very beginning we started out with just three days... then we graduated to a five-day event," Covernton said.

The original idea for the event came from a man in Swan River, who came to Morris, where the stampede is now held, to manage a liquor store.

"He got talking about the Swan River rodeo, and he says 'why can't a town like Morris do it,' so he was the instigator," Covernton said.

The stampede has also gone through its fair share of difficulties, he said. The stampede saw declining attendance after 1967 due to competition from other festivals, and eventually moved to the four-day format it exists as now.

Tim Lewis, president of the stampede, said he's seen some changes in the years he's been involved as well.

"We used to have the big chuckwagons that you see in Calgary, and we haven't seen those since about 1994, but we still have the pony chuckwagons and the thoroughbreds," Lewis said.

But new events are also being introduced. To celebrate the event's 50th anniversary, Lewis said team roping and team penning will be a part of the lineup for the first time. And for those who missed the Calgary Stampede, Lewis said they can experience some of that excitement closer to home.

"A lot of the competitors are the same people that might have been in Calgary," Lewis said.

The event relies heavily on visitors from Winnipeg, but also from south of the border, Lewis said.

"Winnipeg is our main draw. But we're also 30 minutes from the U.S. border, so we've got quite a few Americans coming up," he said.

And 50 years on, Covernton said he still loves being a part of the events.

"We've come a long way. Our buildings are in good shape. All we need is a good weather," he said.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A15

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 8:58 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Dennis Halstead

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