The Nicola Valley Rodeo Association (NVRA) is looking forward to a banner year in 2024, building on the success of their 2023 season.

“In general, it (2023) was a very successful year for us,” said Gert Leslie, a representative for NVRA.

Through the hard work of the board and volunteers, the Nicola Valley Rodeo Grounds were able to host new events, such as two cutting horse shows, and even a wedding.

“We’re kind of excited to see us become a popular wedding venue,” said Leslie, who noted that there is another wedding already booked for 2024.

“I think a lot of the attraction is because of the on site camping. So, they can do the wedding reception party and then people can just camp instead of having to go anywhere after the party. And the concession is available for them, if they want to get caterers in.”

As part of a major electrical upgrade completed in 2022, which included the installation of more than 30 solar panels on the grandstand roof to offset electricity costs, campers can now utilize RV hookups on the camping portion of the grounds, adding a touch of added luxury for rodeo competitors and wedding attendees.

2024 will see a continuance of the major upgrades to the grounds that kicked off with Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) funding in 2021.

“For this year, we’ve got the ongoing reconstruction,” said Leslie.

“We started this big project a few years ago and we completed the electrical last year and a few other things like arena sprinklers, a few obvious changes. This year we’re going to put a better hard surface in the concourse area to make it more accessible for people with wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, anything wheeled. Right now it’s loose gravel which doesn’t work very well.”

This project will ideally be completed early this year. Leslie is also hopeful that another major project will be underway and completed before the season starts.

“Our tractor and equipment shed is going to be converted into an entry plaza.”

The building, situated between the washroom and concession buildings, currently stores the tractor and other equipment over the winter. However, after upgrading the sliding doors on one side, adding additional sliding doors to open onto the concourse, and constructing a new façade, the building will have a renewed purpose as the new location for ticket sales and entrance to the grounds.

“It will be added security, and it will look nice,” said Leslie.

As for the events coming up in 2024, “It’s looking pretty exciting.”

All the fan favourites, the Pro Rodeo, Ranch Rodeo, High School Rodeo, and Little Britches, will be returning, along with another cutting horse show. Also back this year will be the Nicola Valley Kennel Club dog show for the third year in a row, and the Bluemoon Elvis Festival, which relocated to Merritt in 2022.

Organizers are also hopeful that they will be able to bring in both a bull riding event and barrel racing event this year, although those are still in the concept stages.

“We had a great season last year and we’re really looking forward to another successful season and an even better rodeo,” Leslie concluded.