The Williams Lake Stampede is a year-round project for the dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. Each year we honor our Volunteer of the Year – a person or persons who has volunteered their time and contributed greatly to our Stampede.
We are so proud to recognize, remember, and celebrate the individual contributions of all of our Volunteers for the Year.
Volunteer of the Year: Barb Brown
If there was an excuse for Barb Brown to be down at the Stampede Grounds, she would be there. “Anything that they needed help with, she was one of the first ones to put up her hand,” said her partner, Paul Dyson.
Brown is being honoured posthumously this year, for her volunteer work with the Stampede Association, after she passed away on Jan. 27. Brown was a staple at the Stampede Grounds, whether she was there painting, doing prep work, watering the grounds, when she was there practicing with the Wild West Riders Drill Team, or during Stampede, helping at the gates or with the 50-50.
With the Wild West Riders, and other drill teams including the Cariboo Cowgirls and the Dream Weavers, Dyson said Brown was a huge supporter - whether or not she was on the horse. “She loved to ride, she loved to participate,” he said. “Whether she rode or not, she was there to support the team, even at times when she didn’t have a horse that was rideable.”
Dyson said, that at one point, she even dressed up as a rodeo clown for the Little Britches rodeo. “Someone must have talked her into it,” he said with a laugh.
Brown’s dream was always living somewhere where she could have a horse, said Dyson, and when the pair moved to the Cariboo 15 years ago, she was able to realize that dream. “Her drive was to be involved and live a life where she saw what needed to be done, and could go help,” he said. “All she ever did was look for ways she could contribute and get involved.”
When she saw something that needed to be worked on, he said, she’d be on her way to help.
“When others saw her, they’d go ‘Obviously we need something done, because here comes Barbara and she’s got her tools.”
-By Tara Sprickerhoff
Volunteer of the Year: Lorraine Smith
Sitting in the beautiful log office at the entry to the Williams Lake Stampede Campgrounds on the first day of the season, Lorraine Smith seems perfectly at home.
Smith has been volunteering with the Stampede Association for the past five years, most of it at the Stampede Campgrounds, where she can be found in the office, or, often enough, cleaning the washrooms.
“You clean the washrooms when you know it’s not going to be busy,” she said. “That’s one of our bragging rights,that we’ve got the cleanest washrooms in the Cariboo.” Smith laughs, but she’s serious about cleaning, and for that matter, volunteering.
“You do what needs to get done. That’s the thing about volunteering, you’re doing it because you want to and I had a good teacher — every time I clean the bathrooms I think she taught me well.”
In fact, Smith was doing just that last year when the first evacuees from 108 Mile Ranch began to arrive in Williams Lake, by way of the campground.
“I took off my blue gloves that I was using to clean the showerhouse, and I came down here, and worked from 2 in the afternoon till 12:30 at night.” Smith would end up staying in a camper with family members in the campground through the fires, checking in on the guests, and making sure everyone was doing okay on a daily basis.
It’s still an emotional memory for Smith, who is humbled by the Volunteer of the Year award, saying she doesn’t volunteer for the recognition.
“It’s a team effort for us, and it’s a wonderful organization to volunteer with. You are not only helping the community, but we get out of country people who come here,” she said. “It’s super because everybody is in a good mood and you get great people here.”
“It’s amazing how much work and teamwork the volunteers do.”
-By Tara Sprickerhoff
Youth Volunteer of the Year: Wyatt Armes
Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Armes has a passion for rodeo, animals and agriculture. Born and raised in Williams Lake at his family’s home on Fox Mountain, Armes - who graduates this year from Lake City Secondary School - is being honoured as the 2018 Youth Volunteer of the Year by the Williams Lake Stampede Association.
“It’s an agricultural-related activity I want to support,” Armes said of rodeo, and the Stampede. “Rodeo’s not a dying breed, but it’s been getting a bit of negative publicity lately, so I want to help improve that any way I can and it’s been a great experience volunteering [for the Stampede].” Armes is no stranger to rodeo, and started competing in the sport when he was in Grade 6. Last summer, he qualified and competed in cutting and tie-down roping at the Canadian National High School Rodeo Finals in Nanton, Alta., and at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Wyoming.
“My brother was first in rodeo, but when I first started I was pushing cattle when I was pretty little - just fearless,” he said. “Now I’m the senior. “I just love the rodeo atmosphere. It’s so welcoming and everyone supports each other. You can ask your competitors how you can do something better, and they’ll help you. I think that’s the only sport where you can do that.”
Armes first started volunteering with the WLSA at the age of 11, working in the cafeteria. Every year since he’s found odd jobs and places he can help out around the Stampede Grounds prior, during and after the annual spectacle. “Just whatever needs to be done,” he said. “Whether it’s hosing down the beer gardens or helping turn on the irrigation and making sure everything’s working, I enjoy it.”
Armes added he’s honoured to be recognized as the Youth Volunteer of the Year. “It feels pretty cool, and it was definitely a surprise,” he said. “It’s appreciated - it means other people are noticing your hard work, and it feels pretty good.”
In the fall, Armes will be moving to attend post-secondary school at the University of Saskatchewan where he plans on pursuing a veterinary degree, continuing on with his passion for animals and agriculture. He’s spent the past four years helping Dr. Doug Magnowski of the Animal Care Hospital of Williams Lake during calving season.
“I just want to thank everybody who’s supported me through my childhood journey,” he said.
-By Greg Sabatino