This May will mark the 51st anniversary of St. Albert’s beloved Rainmaker Rodeo. The rodeo today is such a staple of the city’s summers that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. The truth, however, is that the rodeo didn’t come about easily. In fact, it often didn’t come about at all. Up for a great story? Here’s a look back at the Rainmaker Rodeo—a tale of perseverance, community spirit and a plain-old disregard for bad weather.
St. Albert’s rodeo first started in 1965, as a fundraising event put on by the local Kinsmen Club. The rodeo plans were so ambitious that right from day one, it was decided that “Kinsmen Rodeo 104” (as it was called back then) would be the town’s official anniversary celebration. Some of our cherished traditions, such as the parade and the rodeo breakfast, can be traced all the way back to that weekend. But for the most part, the first year was rodeo in its purest form: steer wrestling, bull riding, calf roping and a few more staples were all that was needed to bring in a crowd.
While the name “Rainmaker” wouldn’t make an appearance for many years to come, the rain itself did not wait for an invitation. The weekend was a near disaster, with many of the events being flooded out. The Kinsmen Club scheduled a make-up date during the dry month of August, which was (you guessed it) rained out as well. The rodeo seemed to act as a magnet for storm clouds. But, contrary to all expectations, attendance numbers grew every year.
The next decade had a rough start for the Kinsmen Rodeo. The rain kept coming, year after year. The weekend almost seemed to carry a curse. To make matters worse, in 1972, an unknown individual snuck into the pens during a chaotic downpour and released 65 stampeding horses into the town. Yet, despite this major setback, the rodeo continued without horses, as hundreds of patrons showed up, smiling and soaked to the bone.
By 1974, it was official: the weekend was cursed, and the people loved it that way. The Kinsmen Club of St. Albert officially adopted the name “Rainmaker” at the urging of the public. The community was united by their annual rain-soaked misfortune.
In 1978, against all logic and expectation, the Rainmaker Rodeo became successful enough to move the event from the empty field that is now Liberton Drive, to its familiar spot on Riel Drive.
In 1985, despite two decades of positivity, the rain had finally won. Rainmaker 124 (celebrating St. Albert’s 124th Anniversary) saw so few patrons that it was doubtful that the rodeo would have a future. The next year, the Kinsmen Club scraped together enough funds for one last hurrah, and was rewarded with only a light drizzle.
With newfound confidence, the club held some major restructuring over the next two years. New events were planned to attract the increasingly diverse population: karate, dance nights, motocross—if it was popular, it was included. More importantly though, the rodeo weekend was moved to the end of May, where sunny days were in no short supply. The weather would never hold the Rainmaker hostage again. Well, not as much anyway.
The innovations of the late 80s caused the popularity of the Rainmaker to skyrocket. Some argued that it was attracting a little too much attention. The 1990s saw a huge spike in attendance numbers and a rise in safety concerns along with it. The RCMP formed a close relationship with the rodeo during this time, being called in on numerous occasions to settle the disruptive masses.
But this popularity also pushed the rodeo from a humble community tradition into the internationally known event that it is today. The Rainmaker is now one of the largest semi-professional rodeos in Canada, attracting both patrons and contestants from around the globe. The Rainmaker Rodeo has helped St. Albert show the world, time and again, that a little rain never hurt anybody. t8n
Before it was moved to its current date, 72% of the rodeo weekends were rained out. Since the move, the percentage of rainy days has dropped to a mere 5%.
The Rainmaker has raised over
$4.5 million over the years, which has gone directly into the funding of community works projects.