Jaillan Yehia

not My First Rodeo; 10 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Cloverdale Rodeo

Written by Jaillan Yehia

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Cloverdale Rodeo

Cloverdale Rodeo

‘Don’t worry, it’s not my first rodeo‘ replied my friend as I apologised for leaving her alone in the stands while I got a closer look at the horses and the real life cowboys performing in front of me.

She almost certainly wasn’t the first person to make that joke at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, the fifth biggest rodeo in Canada, and I’m sure she won’t be the last.

But it was my first rodeo, and won’t be my last judging by the amount of fun I had at an event that sets you back just $10 for entry and can keep you horsing around for up to 16 hours.

Before visiting Cloverdale Exhibition grounds last weekend I had no real idea what to expect, wondering what kind of mix between entertainment festival and farm show exists at an event offering the second largest rodeo prize pot after the world-famous Calgary Stampede.

Like any girl going out to an all day and evening event I found myself asking various questions in advance from what I should wear, to what time I should get there, and wondering if there would be cloakrooms (no) or ATMs (yes). In the end it was extremely straightforward to visit the rodeo, and a LOT of fun. So here are a few things I wish I’d known back when I was a rodeo virgin.

What Are All these Different Ticket Options About?

beer ticket at Cloverdale Rodeo

This is one ticket you can’t go wrong with

The event’s full title is Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair and at first I found the plethora of different ticket options available rather confusing – but that’s probably because I was a newbie. Essentially there’s one price to enter the grounds and another to watch one of Cloverdale Rodeo’s performances.

Put simply the entire grounds are given over to a country fair, which costs $12 to enter, or $10 if purchased in advance from London Drugs branches, then within the large grounds there are further ticket barriers to get to the arena where the actual rodeo is taking place, so you’ll need the extra ticket to get to the inner sanctum.

How Long Will I be At The Rodeo?

music at Cloverdale Rodeo

Live music is going on well into the evening…

This 4-day event is held over May Long Weekend (that’s the Canadian equivalent of May Bank Holiday weekend for us Brits) and given that the Cloverdale Rodeo grounds open at 10 am on Saturday, Sunday and Monday  (4pm on the Friday) and can be open as late as 2 am you may be wondering what time is the perfect time to show up. Well I was wondering that.

Of course it completely depends on your own preferences but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are two main rodeo shows each day (except Friday) that start at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm and run for up to a couple of hours.

I planned on being there just in time to catch both  – this way you can see the shows in daylight and under the floodlights and get as much out of the day as possible as the performances are different. Of course this meant that by the time I left I’d been at the rodeo for nearly 12 hours. I told you it was excellent value.

Should I bring the kids to Cloverdale Rodeo?

kids at Cloverdale Rodeo

They start ’em young at Cloverdale Rodeo

Cloverdale Rodeo is a very family-friendly event; there was lots for little ones to do apart from simply watch the rodeo; it isn’t so crowded that you would need to worry but there’s also enough going on to keep them interested.

Do I need to bring cash or are there ATMs at Cloverdale Rodeo?

Cowboy Hats for sale at Cloverdale Rodeo

Cowboy Hats for sale at Cloverdale Rodeo

My advice is to bring as much cash as you need as most vendors take only cash. The beer tickets are on a cash-only basis, costing either $5 or $7 a drink depending on which bar you are at.

Helpfully there are ATMs within the grounds including one in a van – perhaps this is a Canadian thing? I was amused to see a van full of money parked in the middle of a crowd of people.

A handful of the vendors take debit cards – but be warned credit cards won’t be welcomed once inside. You’ll also need money to go shopping for fun souvenirs like Wrangler jeans and real cowboy hats.

What if I don’t know anything about horses?

But for me as a lay person whose experience with horses goes as far as riding only three or four times in my life, the highlight of the day was watching the show billed as a specialty act by Niki Flundra.

Her performance uses a technique called liberty training which sees her display natural horsemanship working minus any saddle or bridle and shows how beautiful it is when people bond with their animals and they both put total faith and trust in one another.

Niki Flundra at Cloverdale Rodeo 2015 from Savoir There on Vimeo.

What Kind Of Refreshments Are On Offer At Cloverdale Rodeo?

cowboy hats

Hats off to Coors

There’s plenty of soft drinks available including coffee stands (yay!). The official beer sponsor of the event in 2015 was Coors so this was the adult tipple of choice (and the kind sponsor of our cowboy hats) though there were a couple of alcopops to choose from too. I did not spy any other options, so if you’re after a G&T you’re probably out of luck.

What kind of food is available at Cloverdale Rodeo?

popcorn at Cloverdale Rodeo

Luckily the weather at the rodeo was drier than a…oh you get the idea

Food-wise there is quite a wide range of choice at the food stands, certainly more variety than I expected but mostly of the barbecue and pizza persuasion – this probably isn’t the place to get a quinoa salad, which is fair enough – this is more Cowtown than Gastown.

What Other entertainment is on offer at Cloverdale Rodeo?

Rodeo Clown

A giant beer can and a clown. And a guy holding a broom

There’s everything from skateboarding to lumberjacking competitions as well as plenty of live music so you probably won’t be bored. The lumberjacking also includes an axe throwing round, which is definitely not boring to watch, especially if you’re seated behind the target!

What Time Does The Bar Close at Cloverdale Rodeo?

Tips jar. That's tips.

Tips jar. That’s tips.

After the performances end for the day, the Longhorn Bar bar stays open until around 1 am and the music continues until 2 am. This is where the other ticket comes in handy – beat the line allows you to skip the queue to get into the bar itself (not the line up to buy beer once inside which isn’t time consuming at all) but as soon as a few beat the line ticket holders show up at once, you’ve got yourself another line. Just a shorter one.

How do I get home from Cloverdale Rodeo?

Longhorn Bar at Cloverdale Rodeo

Longhorn Bar at Cloverdale Rodeo. Still wearing the cowboy hat 12 hours later.

Official parking costs $10 but just like any other event in an urban location there are plenty of enterprising locals who will let you park elsewhere for less – and the on-street parking situation was nowhere near as bad as I would have envisaged. Maybe the Londoner in me just expects parking to be a nightmare and to walk a few blocks.

However if you’re planning on drinking and staying late to enjoy a few beverages, please leave your car at home – or in the parking lot if you have to, and grab a cab. Or use a designated driver service when visiting Cloverdale Rodeo.

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