Char­lie Field­ing named spe­cial guest for 101st an­nual Hand Hills Lake Stam­pede

The Drumheller Mail - - AROUND TOWN - Terri Hux­ley

With sum­mer just around the cor­ner, the Hand Hills Lake Stam­pede gears up for its 101st week­end on June 2, 3, 4 with spe­cial guest Char­lie Field­ing.

Or­ga­nizer Mar­i­lyn Vre­de­goor ex­plained to the Mail, why Field­ing was such an im­por­tant per­son for the event. With 98 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, he is thought to be ‘ Cana­dian through and through.’

“We saw that one way to cel­e­brate Canada’s 150 would be to have some­body that has served our coun­try and made it where it is,” said Vre­de­goor.

“He’s pretty proud of what he did in the war and he’s pretty proud of what’s go­ing on now.”

For the past 40 years, the rodeo has named a spe­cial guest from the com­mu­nity in hon­our of their ef­forts.

Ap­prox­i­mately 23 years ago, Field­ing gath­ered other vet­er­ans in the area dur­ing the Re­mem­brance Day sea­son and ven­tured to lo­cal schools to share their ex­pe­ri­ences with lit­tle ones.

Par­ents would ar­rive to the schools and see the same man that told them sto­ries when they were kids now share the same sto­ries with their own chil­dren.

“He very out­go­ing and friendly and ex­traor­di­nar­ily help­ful to any type of per­son,” said niece in-law Mau­reen Benedict.

Benedict was the one to ask Field­ing to take on the spe­cial po­si­tion. His re­ac­tion was very ap­pre­cia­tive and hum­ble.

“He takes ev­ery­thing in stride, noth­ing phases him,” said Benedict. “He was the good guy vol­un­teer on CFCN.”

The Hanna J.C.Charyk school grade one class vis­its the lodge for an af­ter­noon once a week. Each child is paired up with a se­nior or ‘buddy’. Field­ing’s buddy is more than just a buddy but a real pal.

“It’s not some­thing that they have to do be­cause of school, their bud­dies,” said Benedict. “He re­ally, re­ally en­joys the kids.”

Af­ter 98 years, Field­ing fi­nally gave up his driver’s li­cense and car this year.

“He’s started to get a lit­tle bit shaky walk­ing and stuff – it’s not quite as easy for him but his mind is sharp as a tack,” said Benedict.

The orig­i­nal in­tent of the rodeo was to fundraise money for the Red Cross and their war ef­forts but now has trans­formed into a cow­boy cul­tural tra­di­tion and heart of the Hand Hills area.

Field­ing will be sta­tioned at cer­tain spots through­out the week­end where vis­i­tors can chat and get to know this year’s spe­cial guest.

The rodeo it­self as well has room for camp­ing, bouncy cas­tles for lit­tle ones, pony chuck­wagon rac­ing, a cabaret on Satur­day evening, and pie eat­ing con­test.

“We are pretty fa­mous for our home­made pies at the booth – it’s quite a pop­u­lar place,” said Vre­de­goor.

As well as fun ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the week­end, you can com­fort­ably stay at the camp­ground for all the ac­tion.

“There’s lots of camp­ing and you’re right up close and per­sonal – you are right next to the arena,” said Vre­de­goor.

The Hanna based band ‘The 5 of Di­a­monds’ will be play­ing for the kick­off party on the Fri­day and Lisa Dodd as well as Gar­rett Buchfink will be per­form­ing.

With over 15 hours of rodeo, the event is a def­i­nite crowd pleaser for lo­cals and tourists alike.

“It’s a lot of rodeo and you’re right there like if you are sit­ting in the bleach­ers you are 10, 15 feet away,” said Vre­de­goor. “It’s a real fam­ily af­fair.”

The rodeo would not be where it is to­day with­out the tire­less hours put in by hun­dreds of vol­un­teers in the area. Ser­vice groups come in and deal with park­ing and se­cu­rity like the Delia fig­ure skating club.

“I think we have the best vol­un­teers in the world,” said Vre­de­goor. “We’re pretty for­tu­nate.”

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