The Williams Lake Stampede knows we would not be where we are today without the special commitment of our community. Each year we honor our Lifetime Member – a person or persons who has extensively contributed to the success, longevity, and sustainability of the Williams Lake Stampede in their own unique way.
We are so proud to recognize our 2018 Lifetime Member, Wilf Smith.
2018 Lifetime Member: Wilf Smith
Longtime Stampede auctioneer Wilf Smith has been named this year’s Williams Lake Stampede 2018 Lifetime Pass Recipient. Smith said he was surprised and humbled by the recognition. “The board of directors and volunteers work so hard to put on such a great Stampede every year and to be a part of that is a great, great honour,” Smith said.
While Smith was never a Stampede Association board member, he said he began helping out with the rodeo after he and his family moved to Williams Lake in 1989. He used to help with building and cleaning up around the grounds and every year he volunteers his skills as an auctioneer at the Stampede Auction each February. “You work with a great pile of people when you help out the Stampede Association,” Smith said of why he loves to volunteer with the Stampede. “They have had tremendous directorship and presidents all the way through and it is always great to work with them.” Rodeo, he added, is the “greatest” sport in the world. While he dabbled in team-roping and calf-roping when he was younger, he said he never got to where he was a world champion, by any means.
Smith said he will be volunteering again this year for the Stampede. “I’m usually down at the calf end pulling ropes,” he said. The Stampede, he added, does so much for Williams Lake. “The amount of people it draws and the amount of money that comes into this town is huge and they are always putting money back in. They had that wildfire relief fundraiser last fall and gave it to many local groups.” Smith and his family are well-known in the community. From 1989 until 2017 he was the regional manager of the BC Livestock Producers Co-op Association at the stockyards in Williams Lake. Now, semi-retired, the 69-year-old continues to do some farm sales and cattle listings at the co-op. “It’s the people you deal with,” he said. “It’s one of the big factors that holds this agricultural industry and the rodeo life together.”
Born in Merritt, B.C., he and his brothers, Al and Rob, grew up living on the Smith Ranch, owned by their parents Lawrence and Marg Smith. Lawrence was also born and raised in Merritt. Marg was his war bride. They’d met during the Second World War when he was serving overseas with the Canadian Army. “We had a cow-calf operation,” Smith said of the family’s ranch in Merritt. “We ran about 250 cows total.” After he graduated from high school, the Smith family relocated to Turtle Valley near Chase, B.C. where they bought a bigger ranch. They called it the Smith Ranch as well. In 1982, he went to auction school in Mason City, Iowa, where he studied for two weeks with a group of teachers to learn how to be an auctioneer. He spent that summer doing some sales with his brother, Al, and they began working for Larry Jordan, selling cattle in Kamloops, Okanagan Falls and Williams Lake. Smith sold cattle through Larry Jordan until 1989 and then he moved to Williams Lake for the regional manager job.
Things have changed somewhat since he started at the Williams Lake Stockyards. The biggest thing was the Stockyard’s move in 1998 to its present location on Cattle Drive at the north end of Williams Lake. “We used to be down where Canadian Tire is now, but we were getting squeezed out there,” he recalled. “B.C. Rail owned the land and wanted to sell it and they had this piece of property for sale up here, so BC Livestock bought the property.” Moving to the new location was a great decision, he added. “First thing in the morning you’ve got the sun and then last thing at night. It’s a beautiful location.”
Smith and his wife, Darlene, had two children - Tammie and Jay. Tammie, however, passed away three years ago from breast cancer, leaving behind her two children, Stephanie and Curtis. Jay and his wife, Lori, live at 150 Mile House, and Jay works as a logger out of Prince George. Looking back at his career as regional manager, Smith said there were lots of hours put in but he never minded. “When you totally enjoy something, it makes it a lot easier. It’s the people that make you want to keep going.” Praising Darlene, Smith said she has always supported him wholeheartedly. When he does the Stampede Auction, she does the book work and whenever he does a farm sale at the Stockyards, she helps him. “We’ve been working together as a team for 47 years this year,” he said.