A First Nations dance group from Northern B.C. plans to pay tribute to the Williams Lake Stampede on Saturday, July 4.
Elder Evelyn George of the Doris Munger and the Old Fort Traditional Dancers said they will perform dances and songs in their community of Old Fort which is part of the Lake Babine Nation, northeast of Granisle on Babine Lake.
“We are doing it as we cannot attend this year with it being cancelled because of COVID,” George told the Tribune.
The group has been coming to Williams Lake since 2003 and members usually stayed at Chief Will-Yum Campground or Whispering Willows Campsite, George said.
Desiree Loyie, president of the dance group, said attending the Stampede and participating in the Daybreak Rotary Stampede Parade was first initiated by her grandmother, Louise Alec.
“We have a big family, my grandma and grandpa Joe Alec had three boys and seven girls. Grandpa passed away in the late 90s and grandma thought a trip to the Stampede would help with our healing — we really missed grandpa.”
Loyie said they always enjoy the street party, the parade and the rodeo, adding they are big fans of bull riding.
“It is something we look forward to every year.”
Grandma Alec passed away in 2004, and they kept attending in memory of her.
“She stays close to our hearts and when we are camping there we feel like we are camping with grandma. It’s such a nice family time for us. We even check out Blue Lake.”
Upon hearing about the dancers’ plan to pay tribute, Williams Lake Stampede Association president Court Smith said it shows there is a connection beyond Williams Lake to the Stampede.
“It truly is world famous,” Smith said, adding there are many groups and people who visit the Stampede every year.
“Some people even come all the way just to volunteer,” he added.
Loyie said they hope to go live with the tribute on their Facebook page at about 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 4.
In the past the group has won several times in the parade for their float, with a first place in 2018, third place in 2016 and best dressed animal in 2013.