By Lyonel Doherty
Other than in-your-face action, one thing is certain about Bull Riding in the Rockies set for July 21 – Bill McIntosh would have been damn proud.
This big guy made quite an impression years ago when he pitched the idea of a special fundraiser for the Columbia Valley Rockies hockey team. He believed that gathering a bunch of top bull riders in one arena would be the perfect event, and he was right.
Now in its 23rd year, the Bill McIntosh Memorial Bull Riding in the Rockies attracts nearly 2500 people, with $12,000 in prize money this year.
Hockey club president Brett Holt says it is their biggest fundraiser that could not be held in a more “spectacular” venue with Lake Windermere on one side, the arena across the road, and the mountains in the background.
“You’ve got to be there to experience it,” he states, noting this particular venue allows people to get up close to the bulls.
Holt also points out that some of the same cowboys that compete in the Calgary Stampede come here to challenge the bulls. Like many fans, Holt can’t wait to see the “Mexican poker” games where bulls are let loose in the arena to match poker faces with card players whose nerves of steel are duly tested. Don’t blink or you might miss a cowboy defying a little gravity.
The last person to remain sitting amidst all this crazy mayhem is the winner.
In the end, proceeds from the fundraiser will help the Rockies keep their operational costs down during the season.
Invermere Mayor Al Miller fondly recalls McIntosh, saying he was quite the character.
“He was a big man in size with big ideas. When Bill spoke, lots of people listened, whether you necessarily agreed with him or not. He was a great guy . . . a hard working man.”
Miller remembers when McIntosh pitched the fundraising idea to the board and how it grew from there. “It takes lots of money to keep a hockey team on the road,” the mayor says, noting how important the event is.
Miller agrees with Holt that the downtown venue with beautiful views can’t be beat.
“We get very good riders coming to this event; you’re up close and personal with these bulls, and you don’t need binoculars like some [other] major events. You too can get dusty [watching the show].”
The mayor is also looking forward to seeing the Mexican poker event, agreeing there is “no getting around it” for sheer craziness.
Miller points out the event has grown significantly to include a food truck dinner (starts at 4 p.m.), live music by Marty & Company, and a family dance with Cole Malone at the curling rink. There is also a mechanical bull waiting to test the mettle of anyone brave enough to try.
But perhaps the bravest of them all will be bull riding clown Daryl Robertson.
Gates are open at 4:30 p.m., across from Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena. Bull riding starts at 6:30 p.m., with the dance starting at 9:30.
For ticket information, visit www.showpass.com.