The Canadian Finals Rodeo and Farmfair International are tremendous attractions. Over 180,000 visitors attend the two events at Northlands in Edmonton.
Northlands’ staff, including Fran Lucas, Manager of Volunteer and Community Relations, are supported by hundreds of volunteers pulling together to execute the activities each year.
According to Fran, Farmfair International involved 250 volunteers last year who put in a total of 2,327 hours of work. The CFR involved even more, with 296 volunteers putting in 3,120 hours of work.
What makes working for these events so special? Four volunteers share what drives them.
Jennifer Riggan has been volunteering with Northlands since 2010. Jennifer comes from a rodeo family, so the CFR is a fitting place for her to give back.
“I wanted to go to the rodeo really bad one year, so I figured I would look to see if I could volunteer. Lo and behold, I could! Ever since then I’ve only missed one performance in seven years.”
Jennifer serves as Chair of the CFR’s Access Control Group. She was the first woman to hold the position. The Access Control Group is integral to keeping patrons, participants and animals safe during the CFR.
“We’re placed in specific locations to ensure that the general public do not get into areas that they’re not required to be in,” she explains. “As there are a lot of animals going in and out of the building, we strive to keep everyone safe including the livestock.”
Jennifer’s favorite part about volunteering with Northlands is the people.
“They are a special group and sometimes we only see each other once a year, but it’s like we see each other once a month.”
Chad and Lorri Andrews are longtime CFR volunteers. 2017 will mark Lorri’s 26th year as a CFR volunteer, and the 21st year for her husband, Chad.
“The first year we were dating, I had already been volunteering for about five years,” Lorri says, “so I said ‘Come on out and try it… if you hate it, you don’t ever have to come back.’”
At the time, this was far outside Chad’s comfort zone.
“I was a very shy, quiet, reserved individual,” Chad puts it. “20 years later, I’m still doing it!”
One of Chad’s duties is selling 50/50 tickets for charity.
“I can actually give back and help contribute to a charity that benefits greatly… in this case, the Edmonton Rodeo Cowboy’s Benevolent Foundation”.
Volunteering has had a significant impact on Chad.
“I’ve accumulated regulars over the years,” he says, “which is really nice, cause you get to meet them and see their kids grow up and all that stuff.”
“It definitely did help move forward into my personal life, and I guess even work life, being able to expand myself and realize ‘Hey, you can try this and you’re not gonna die!’”
“How can you express in words what that does to your heart?” – Lorri Andrews
Chad and Lorri also volunteer at Rodeo Magic, where they help with the horseback rides.
Several years ago, Lorri was approached by one of the kids’ caregivers, wondering if she could bring a horse over for the little girl to see. The girl was in a wheelchair and couldn’t sit on the horse, but they were hoping she could still get close enough to enjoy it.
“So, I brought a horse over,” Lorri describes, “and she touched the horse on the muzzle and kind of stroked it a bit, and then she said ‘soft’”.
The caregiver started to tear up. Lorri panicked.
“I thought I had done something wrong,” Lorri says, “and she says, ‘No, no, don’t feel bad!’”
The caregiver had never heard the girl speak until that moment. Lorri was deeply affected.
“How can you express in words what that does to your heart? It was pretty amazing that I got to witness something like that.”
Head, Heart, Hands & Health
Mahlon Weir has always been a people person, dedicated to helping out wherever he could. His first experiences as a volunteer at Farmfair came through his connection to 4-H.
“They had some youth livestock classes that were being held at Northlands, so I found myself involved in helping to organize those.”
45 years later, Mahlon is still helping out.
“I spent 35 years working with Alberta Agriculture, and I have a soft spot for the rural community. But I also am really compelled to help make that connection between producers at the farm level and consumers at the urban level.”
Northlands offers many community programs that connect people with agriculture, such as youth agricultural programs and the BMO Farm Family Awards, and Mahlon appreciates their importance.
“My continued dedication to Northlands,” he says, “is the fact that Northlands gives back to the community in such a huge way… it’s a myriad of ways including scholarships, and opportunities for people to come onto the Northlands grounds for example, and experience something very unique.”
“I believe we still have a very vibrant role to play in the northern Alberta community.”
Don’t miss the CFR’s final year at Northlands! Grab your tickets today and remember, your CFR ticket grants you access to Farmfair International so be sure to check it out!