Rodeo on the bluffs, a bluff?
May 25, 2012 / 5:33 pm
There are so many loose ends to tie up around the Okanagan Pro Rodeo and Festival, that some are wondering if it will actually happen, including the organizer.
The Okanagan Pro Rodeo and Festival is supposed to take place July 4 to 8 at the Bluff concert venue in West Kelowna, but earlier this month the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association denied the Okanagan Pro Rodeo's application, taking away a key feature of the event.
A spokesperson for the association says the reason the application was denied is because the Rodeo was unable to come up with the total prize money needed 60 days before the event.
The Canadian Pro Rodeo was to bring the Wrangler Canadian Rodeo tour stop to the city along with tour features, prize money and a chance at a position in the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton. Now, none of that will happen, however the Okanagan Pro Rodeo website claimed the show will still go on as an Invitational Pro Rodeo with the same amount of prizes and same stock contractors.
Sheldon Vance is the organizer for the event and he says the Rodeo is going through some difficulties after a major private investor backed out.
"My dates for the fourth to the eighth are pretty much on hold, pretty much canceled. We are less than six weeks now, and there is no way we can generate ticket sales, so we did look at the middle of August but we don't know if we will get the stage up in time."
Vance says the biggest concern for him is the stage at the Bluff, which has been condemned by the Westbank First Nations and will need to be repaired and meet safety requirements before a rodeo or any event can take place.
However when Castanet contacted the Westbank First Nations, they claimed that Vance has never applied to hold an event at the Bluff and issued this statement:
"No application has been made for a rodeo (professional or invitational) on the Bluff.
Any event with 200 people or more being held within WFN territory requires an approved event permit through resolution of Council. In order for this to happen, an application must be provided 60 days in advance of the proposed event, and must meet many criteria, including approval from RCMP, Fire, Health Canada, as well as proof of insurance, etc."
When questioned about the legitimacy of the rodeo, Vance claimed an application was in the process and that it had to be signed by the owner of the Bluff, Cal Lindley.
"The Lindley's needed to sign one piece of paper saying the onus was off them and our insurance was going to take over, but Lindley hasn't been able to sign the paper."
Lindley tells Castanet he has left it all up to Vance.
Because the WFN has not received an application, the RCMP and West Kelowna Fire Department have not approved the rodeo to take place, to which Vance claims he was aware of.
If the issue of venue wasn't confusing enough, the validity of the purpose of the rodeo is also raising a few questions.
Proceeds from the Rodeo were supposed to go towards a 32 bed youth transitional house scheduled to open in March of 2013 in Kelowna at the Mission Creek Ranch.
Castanet contacted the Mission Creek Ranch and was told by Lynda Ramsey, the operator of the ranch, that she had never been contacted by Vance for approval of such a Transitional House.
"This rodeo is false. He did not ask us if we were interested in doing this, he just went ahead and did it. I am absolutely furious. We have been in constant contact asking him to change all of that information. It is really causing us a huge amount of problems."
According to Ramsey, Vance told her it was his webmasters' fault the name was on the site.
"He spoke very much out of turn giving any of this information out or putting it on the website because there is no way this is ever going to take place at Mission Creek Ranch, ever." (Ramsey did state that she believes in the concept of a transitional house, but instead is outraged at how Vance went about the process.)
Vance says he was going to purchase the ranch from the owner and work with the Ramsey's to build a Transition House, even though Ramsey says she was never asked about working with Vance. When Vance was questioned about putting the Mission Creek Ranch name on the website without permission he replied, "We did do it, but I said that I would change it."
The Mission Creek Ranch name still appeared on the website the morning of Friday May 25.
The web becomes more tangled when Vance is asked about the sponsors for the event. Vance confirms that Orchard Park Ford, Molson and Coca-Cola are all sponsors for the event.
But when Castanet contacted Ford Canada, a statement was issued by the company's Project Manager stating "Ford is not a sponsor of this event", and that they will be looking into the issue further. Len Burton a manager at Orchard Ford was also contacted and he says several months ago someone from the Okanagan Pro Rodeo contacted him and asked for a sponsorship.
"We told him he had to contact Ford (Canada), and if they wanted to do something corporately then they would contact us where we would bring vehicles up to the event. The guy was supposed to email us information, but we never heard from him again."
The logo for Orchard Ford used on the Okanagan Pro Rodeo website is not the correct logo for Orchard Ford according to Burton, who added that logo has never been used by the company.
Vance claims he has spoken with Orchard Ford several times, and even received an email on Thursday May 24 - the same day Castanet contacted Orchard Ford - but that he has not had time to read the email.
Representatives of Molson stated that they were a sponsor of the Okanagan Pro Rodeo, but they were in the process of re-evaluating the sponsorship due to the denied application by the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association.
Coca Cola, through their website, offered this explanation when questioned about their sponsorship for the Rodeo; "Coca-Cola cares about the welfare of animals and supports their proper treatment. That is why the Company will not sponsor events or attractions that use animals unless the event organizers have policies and procedures in place to support the humane treatment of animals and provide ready access to quality veterinary care to protect the animals' health and safety."
Vance says he is confused that Coca-Cola would issue that statement and says Molson has not contacted him about withdrawing their sponsorship.
Yet the biggest shadow of doubt cast upon this rodeo is the tens of thousands of dollars Vance and the Okanagan Pro Rodeo owes advertisers. Several media groups claim they are out of pocket after Vance booked advertising and wrote a cheque that turned out to be on a closed account. One national media corporation claims Vance has not returned their phone calls regarding unpaid bills for over two weeks.
Vance says he is trying to figure out how he can pay back the advertisers and save his good name, and at the same time put on a Rodeo.
"I would like to fix the problem. Initially when we lost our investor we were left holding the bag. We don't have the funds to do anything as it is at this time. We don't really know at this point."
Castanet asked Vance if he had been lying to the public about the rodeo as well as to advertisers who believed he was going to book a very large event with big acts like Russell Peters. He says, "We have done what we had to do. We haven't lied, we went forward with everything we wanted to do, but everything turned when we lost our investor."
He also confirmed that not a single artist has been booked due to money issues. There have also been no ticket sales, although Vance claims he has an account ready to go when the tickets are sold.
Vance says he is looking to save his and the Rodeo's reputation right now.
"It's up to our investor to see if we are going to go ahead and that is where we have left it. I can talk to my sponsor people and see what happened, but we are at a loss right now."
According to Vance, the Rodeo is still looking to go ahead if another private investor steps forward and he claims there is a Kelowna family that is considering getting involved.
One thing is clear, there will be no rodeo at the Bluffs from July 4 to 8.
Interestingly, after Castanet spoke to Vance, the Okanagan Pro Rodeo website was taken down.
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