The award for most improved grounds was given to the Wycliffe Fair Grounds after it was voted on by barrel racers in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.
“Wycliffe was known as one of the worst grounds there ever was,” said one of the organizers behind the improvements, Frank Elzinga. “I donated about 23 truck and trailer loads of dirt from my place. I’ve been rodeoing for 30 years, so I kind of know my dirt.”
Elzinga donated a mix of sand and dirt from his arena, as a quality match was difficult to find.
With a $25,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust and $7,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay, the project was able to be completed.
Elzinga said high-quality ground is vital for the performance in rodeo competitions.
“They need traction. When the horse is going 35 miles an hour and stops and turns, they have to be able to grab dirt. That’s when their foot hits the ground, it packs together to give them the traction to take off and go again,” said Elzinga. “Bad ground is really dangerous when it comes to rodeo. It’s like trying to ride your bike in the snow if the ground isn’t good.”
With the improvements made, Elzinga said Wycliffe went from one of the worst grounds to one of the best.
Elzinga added that he hopes a new rodeo complex will be built in the future.
“This Community needs an indoor arena. There are five months of our riding season where we can’t do anything,” added Elzinga.
Despite the idea being voted down last year, plans of building an indoor arena will come forward again.