Thousands expected at Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair

Cowboy Cook-off, classic cars, and freestyle skateboarding among the new attractions at this year's Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Saddle bronc is one of four events at Cloverdale Rodeo.

No offence, NHL fans. But Shannon Claypool, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, is really happy the Canucks are out of the playoffs this year.

The Vancouver hockey team’s amazing ride to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals put a slight dent in last year’s attendance at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, which suddenly had to deal with two playoff games scheduled over the May long weekend, traditionally Rodeo weekend in Surrey. Organizers put up screens so hockey fans attending the rodeo and county fair could watch from the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

“It really hit us, having a game Friday and Sunday last year,” Claypool said, adding he’s also optimistic about what the weather will be doing this year.

“The long range forecast for the May long weekend is supposed to be excellent,” he said.

The Cloverdale Rodeo is one of B.C.’s biggest attractions, drawing 80,000 visitors to the fairgrounds each year, including 20,000 rodeo spectators. The invitation-only competition attracts the world’s top-ranked cowboys and cowgirls, who participate in bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding and ladies’ barrel racing events.

There’s plenty to see and do throughout the weekend, from perennial favourites like the midway rides, Kidz Zone, Agri Zone and outdoor entertainment stage to exciting new attractions like the Cloverdale Cowboy Cook-off  and the World Freestyle Skateboarding Round-up, and a classic car show.

The two-day Cowboy Cook-off is for pros like Cloverdale’s very own Brian Misko and backyard barbecue warriors, staged at the food court area by the outdoor entertainment stage.

“That’ll be the place to be,” Claypool predicts. “The cooking of all that barbecue that weekend is just going to make everybody hungry.”

More than 25 teams will compete for $10,000 in cash prizes, starting with a pie and chili contest on Saturday, followed by an Iron Chef-style “Battle Bacon” contest were teams can make anything they want using bacon.

Day two is the cook-off, where teams will turn in different meat entries every hour to a panel of judges. They’ll be offering samples at selected times.

Another change this year is there are no rodeo performances Friday night.

Instead, there are two performances Saturday, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and  on Sunday, where the top competitors in bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding and ladies barrel racing will ride for more than $300,000 in prize money. The finals are Monday at 3 p.m.

http://raven.b-it.ca/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wMuttonBuster2.jpg“We always found it tough to get a good crowd on Friday night,” he said. Perennial favourite, Mutton Bustin’, where kids aged three and up grab hold of a sheep and hang on for dear life, is back this year, along with the debut of chariot racing – a Cloverdale first.

Repeat visitors will notice changes to the fairgrounds as well, such as the layout of the food court, where higher quality vendors have been added to the mix, Claypool says, and there will be a large tented area for picnic spots where people can sit and watch the outdoor stage.

The Kidz Zone – home to live performers and interactive exhibits – has been moved this year into the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. “We won’t actually be having displays in the Alice McKay building or Shannon Hall,” he said.

And the Agri Zone is set up in the Cloverdale Arena, next to the entrance gate.

“We’ve tightened up the grounds,” he explained. “There are less wide open spaces.”

Last year, the association hired an aerial photographer to take pictures of the fairgrounds during the 2011 Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

“We’ve spent the past year tweaking and turning that to give better traffic flows for our patrons and a more bang-for-your-buck experience,” he said, adding mums and dads with strollers will really appreciate the changes, such as more paved areas on the fairgrounds.

Other attractions include Monster Truck Rides, the West Coast Lumberjack Show, mechanical bull riding, 4-H and animal displays, and the Extreme Sports Zone, hosting the World Freestyle Skateboard Roundup.

Performers at the outdoor entertainment stage include Nearly Neil, a Neil Diamond tribute act, a Bon Jovi Tribute, the BC Junior Talent Search, Mike Battie, and more.

The midway features more than 35 rides, making it B.C.’s largest traveling midway, courtesy of West Coast Amusements.

Performers at the outdoor entertainment stage include Nearly Neil, a Neil Diamond tribute act, a Bon Jovi Tribute, the BC Junior Talent Search, Mike Battie, and more.

Tonight (May 17), the “Ultimate Barn Dance” at the Longhorn Saloon kicks off the Cloverdale Rodeo.

It’s presented in conjunction with the B.C. Country Music Association and the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association.

Performers include The Matinee, Ken McCoy Band, and Whiskey Jane.

For more information, visit www.cloverdalerodeo.com.

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