THE OLD DAYS - Stan Thompson falls off his horse beside his friend Archie Williams at a rodeo in 1979.

THE OLD DAYS - Stan Thompson falls off his horse beside his friend Archie Williams at a rodeo in 1979.

Princeton rodeo coming to town

Princeton’s rodeo has been renamed the Stan Thompson Memorial Rodeo in honour of a man who helped shape the event.

Princeton’s annual rodeo has been renamed the Stan Thompson Memorial Rodeo in honour of a man who helped shape the rodeo into the event it is today.

Thompson passed away last year, after being a driving force behind building the Princeton rodeo grounds.

The rodeo runs from May 12 and 13 beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Sunflower Downs – Exhibition Grounds. Roping will start on May 11 at 11 a.m.

This year’s events will include bareback riding, calf roping, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing.

Family entertainment, kids’ activities and a concession stand will also be on site. Princeton’s rodeo today has come a long way since it first started.

In the 1930s, the old rodeo grounds – complete with a race track and baseball field – didn’t have bleachers so people sat on the top rail or peaked over the fence. The old race track and rodeo grounds were torn down at the beginning of the Second World War to lengthen the airport for an emergency military landing strip.

Princeton’s rodeo grounds today have changed, thanks to Thompson’s and other Princeton residents’ hard work.

“Stan was the spark-plug behind the rodeo. It was his love of rodeo as a bulldogger,” said Bob Lind, who is also involved with the Princeton rodeo.

“He had rodeo in his blood. It followed him wherever he went.”

The men ended up building all-steel rodeo buildings after removing  the wood construction.

“Stan was like a pied-piper. He knew everyone in the rodeo world from travelling,” Lind said.

He spent 20 years as president of the Princeton Rodeo Club.

When Thompson was too old to bulldogg, he didn’t let his passion for rodeo fade. He took up team roping instead.

In the early 1980s, rodeo organizers borrowed bucking chutes from a First Nations band in Kamloops.

The rodeo has come a long way in the last 30 years.

It has won most improved rodeo in B.C. for several years.

Princeton is now sister city to the Tonasket, Washington rodeo.

“We’ve worked really hard, and it’s a great rodeo thanks to people like Stan,” Lind said.

But running a rodeo  today hasn’t been easy.

It’s a great spectator sport, but finding enough people to compete is tough, Lind said.

Companies often run big ranches, so the number of ranching families has declined throughout Canada.

“Young people like to go on skidoos and mountain bikes, they don’t want to get on a horse,” Lind said.

But often there isn’t an opportunity to practice.

“It’s the Western way of life. We owe it to our good friend Stan to keep it going.”

Thompson moved from a hay ranch near Cache Creek after buying a trucking and backhoe business and marrying a Princeton woman. He printed a big sign along the top of the backhoe cab that said “old cowboys make good backhoe operators.”

“That machine has more hours digging post holes at the rodeo than making money. Such was the spirit that emanated from Stan,” Lind said.