Whistler is not a cowboy town. We have no farms or ranches and while you do see quite a few cowboy hats they’re usually pink and perched atop a tipsy bride-to-be as her staggette party traipses through the Village. Back in the late 1800s however, this valley was a key stopping point on the old Pemberton cattle-drive Trail and Whistler revisits a bit of that old-time Western culture this Labour Day weekend to celebrate the end of another fine summer.
The hootenanny kicks off on Friday August 3, 2012, as Blackie and the Rodeo Kings perform a free show at the Whistler Olympic Plaza. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are a Canadian roots/alt-country powerhouse formed in 1996 as a side project by three already-successful Canadian rockers. Something clicked though and the trio has since released seven full albums and won a boot-full of awards including Juno (Canada’s answer to a Grammy.) Their music varies from lively and playful to serene open melodies and meaningful lyrics. Perfect music for what may be the last outdoor shaker of the summer. The show begins Friday night at 8:30 at Whistler Olympic Plaza with folky singer/songwriter Vince Vaccaro as the opening act.
On Saturday September 1 the action kicks off at noon down in Whistler Creekside with the most exciting 8 seconds in non-professional sports — the Mechanical Bull Championships and the final Creekside Stampede of the summer. Watch people with little or no experience attempt to ride a hydraulic robot bovine whilst falling, flailing, and generally having a blast. To say this event goes good with a pitcher or two is a definite understatement. The mechanical bull has various speeds/difficulty levels so anyone can give it a try and the action/comedy carries on throughout the day accompanied by rip-rocking tunes courtesy of local fiddle-guitar duo Ruckus Deluxe.
Cowboys are rarely vegetarians so Creekside’s main course on Saturday is a hog roast beginning at 5:30 PM (tix $20). At 10 PM(ish) Elvis tribute band Darrin Lee and the Memphis Flash takes to the stage and the night carries on from there.
The Mechanical Bull Riding Finals are set for around 8 PM and promise to be fun to watch and even more fun to enter. The stampede has already happened twice this summer so expect a few riders coming in with experience. For everyone else, I’ve tapped into my old hay-farming, ranch-living days and come up with a few helpful tips for amateur bull riders looking to take a run at the championship (or just hang on for as long as possible.)
- Commit. This robotic bull will not trample you and the landing pad is soft so don’t go in unless you’re ready to go all in. Dispelling of fear and doubt is integral to your success. (A few shots of liquid courage doesn’t hurt either.)
- Chaps. If you have leather chaps in your closet you probably lead a more interesting lifestyle than I do but now is the time to put those babies to (proper) use. Through a combination of friction and molecular awesomeness the leather actually helps hold your inner thighs onto the bull and can prevent bruising due to over-squeezing-in-total-fear. Chaps also lead to a lot of butt-grabbing in between rides, which can lead to free drinks for you.
- Gloves. You hold onto a rope and rope-burn is a hazard. An old duct-taped ski or work glove will do but to really impress the audience you need something legit looking. A tan leather or deerskin glove is the real deal and the leather grips better than nylon (see chaps).
- The Other Arm. Bull riders don’t wave that other arm in the air because they want to say “howdy” to the audience. The proper technique is to use that arm as a counterbalance. If you feel your body slipping left, throw that arm hard to the right. As well, try to find the rhythm. It’s not the up and down that gets you it’s the twisting and spinning. Lean back.
- Hat. You’ll never win if you don’t believe you’re the winner. A good hat is much more than just a head covering, it’s an entirely new persona. Riding without a hat is like skiing in just jogging pants or mountain biking with a green garbage bag over your torso. It’s just not proper.
Of course, just because I’m hyping up the cowboy ways doesn’t mean Whistler doesn’t have whatever else you’re looking for. There are two zillion other, regular, non-cowboy events and activities happening in Whistler for the long weekend of Aug 31-Spetember 3 2012. Enjoy free concerts by pop-rockers The Boom Booms, ex-Whistler-local violin-master Kytami, and child-soldier-turned-musician Emmanual Jal. There is also a 50-mile running race, walking tours, artisan markets and more. Check out this Labour Day list and find the fun that best suits your needs. Yee Haw!
Here is short and simple YouTube video of a mechanical bull set up in Whistler Village last spring. Doesn’t look too bad on power level one, right? (Please note the Creekside Bull has a big head and is much cooler looking. This “bull” is dressed to look like a cow.) Ride on!