The Merritt Little Britches Rodeo Club hosted another successful rodeo event, with a record number of attendees gathering to mark the organization’s first full-scale rodeo since years of pandemic restrictions, fires, and flooding.

The rodeo, taking place on the June 4 and 5 weekend at the Nicola Valley Rodeo Grounds, was the first Little Britches event in years mostly untouched by pandemic restrictions and the imminent threat of evacuation alerts and orders. Over 120 entries to a variety of roping, tying, and barrel racing events kept organizers and contestants alike busy over the weekend.

“It was one of the biggest Merritt Little Britches Rodeos we’ve ever held,” said Tanya Starrs, volunteer with the Merritt Little Britches Rodeo Association.

“It was really good to have a full house and a full grounds, because over the last year or two we’ve been either dealing with fires, or COVID, or flooding. So there was a limited number of people on the ground, we could only have our contestants but not anybody to come and watch.”

The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in BC has allowed for the return of full bleachers and visible smiling faces throughout the grounds on Lindley Creek Road, where rodeo contestants aged up to 15 compete in a variety of skill and timing based events.

It was an exciting weekend for the Starrs family in particular, with daughter and local high-school student Kelsey Starrs securing multiple podium wins to ultimately end up as the weekend’s breakaway roping champion, despite a busy rodeo experience filled with last-minute changes and riding a horse borrowed from a friend.

“Her own barrel racing horse wasn’t available for her to run, so she had to just go ahead and borrow a friend of ours’s horse, and just kind of get on and ride. It didn’t go exactly to plan, but it was still a great experience,” added Starrs.

Moving forward, rodeo goers and Merritt Little Britches members will fine tune their skills and participate in rodeos both in the Nicola Valley and beyond. The Merritt Little Britches Association is affiliated with the BC Little Britches Association, and members participate in locally organized events.

“Kids are practicing with their horses now throughout the week, and we have local rodeo practices sometimes where we get all the kids together and practice.”

Starrs added that the return of the Little Britches Rodeo marked the start of a return to ‘normal,’ and said she was happy to see younger contestants make up nearly a third of total entries to this year’s event.

“What I think was really amazing was that we had a lot of local Merritt kids enter. I don’t know if we’ve had this many entries in a long time. There were a lot of younger kids in the junior division that entered. It was nice to see that generation coming up to support the sport of rodeo.”

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