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Swift Current Rodeo

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History - Swift Current Frontier Days Rodeo

In 1938 the City of Swift Current, Sask. with a population of 5,000 gave the Kinetic Club, consisting of 70 members, the task of sponsoring an annual July First Dominion Day Celebration. The Kinetics had assisted the city's July First Committee to stage a successful celebration the previous year, 1937, and the city fathers under Mayor James Taylor had faith that the club could further promote and develop the celebration. The Kinetic Club had been formed in 1935, originally as a young men's group in the Metropolitan Church; in 1936 the group decided to expand to include young men of all denominations in Swift Current, and took the name "Kinetic" a scientific term signifying "Energy in motion".

10 - pic 1.jpgThe Kinetics proved, indeed, to be an imaginative and energetic group. At one of their Sunday afternoon meetings held in the City Hall Council Chambers, they discussed what form the 1938 Celebration should take. One member suggested a football game as the main attraction since football was becoming increasingly popular in Saskatchewan. Charlie Powley, another member suggested that what was needed was something that would appeal to the people in the surrounding area, for the most part dirt farmers and ranchers, and to the merchants and people of the neighbouring towns and villages. He put forth the idea of staging a rodeo and the idea was adopted with enthusiasm.

The Kinetics then decided to put all their efforts into re-incarnating in every possible detail the western frontier days, still vivid in the minds of Swift Current's old timers from the early days when Swift Current was a western cattle town. In casting about for something to publicize the first rodeo the Kinetics considered many ideas. Finally, one young man said, "Why don't we do something crazy, like growing beards?" Rev. Jack Jones, a Kinetic member and minister of the Knox Church, now resident in Yorkton, Sask. is credited with this suggestion which was adopted and brought Canada wide publicity for Swift Current's rodeo in 1938 and in succeeding years.

Kinetic Ken Lewis was appointed Publicity Chairman and initiated many novel ideas to popularize beard growing and the western theme in general. A beard growing competition was sponsored, with prizes for all types of beards; penalties, to be publicly administered were established for those not growing beards; people were encouraged to wear western costumes, including poke bonnets and hoop skirts for the ladies; slabbed up store fronts became the order of the day and hitching posts appeared in front of many business establishments. Saturday night parades were weekly and these together with community sing songs in the down town area helped to build a community spirit. The songs sung, mostly western parodies, were written by Kinetics Karl Hawley, then Club president, Charlie Powley and Kem Aberdeen. To the accompaniment of twanging guitars the crowds sang among other parodies such songs as "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet" with Kinetic words:

broncriding.jpg"Put on your old bandanna
And your best Western manner
To the Swift Current Stampede let us go.
The wild broncs will Skeedaddle
With sunlight 'neath the saddle
At the Frontier Rodeo."

Swift Current's Rodeo was probably the first in Western Canada to blend street and Fair Grounds entertainment, and to have its citizens on the streets, in the stores, in the schools and churches wearing western costume throughout pre-rodeo and rodeo days.

Although there was great concentration on building publicity and a community spirit, the Kinetics meanwhile were leaving no stones unturned to build a program worthy of the advance publicity. Under the leadership of Bill Harding, first president of the Kinetic Club and 1936 Celebration General Chairman, a committee of about a dozen led the membership in planning a gigantic celebration complete with midway, historic western parade, street dances, rodeo queen contest, an Old Timers' Re-union to go along with the rodeo.

Charlie Powley as Rodeo Secretary and Ralph DesBrisay, Program Chairman worked together on details of lining up a first class rodeo. Don "Squint" Perrin of Kyle, Sask. about 50 miles north of Swift Current, and one of Canada's most outstanding cowboys was chosen as Rodeo Manager, a job he was to hold for a dozen years into the future. The Perrin family was raised in the Cypress Hills, some 80 miles south-west of Swift Current, where the elder Perrin homesteaded in 1891. Don and older brother, Edwin, competed for Canada at a rodeo in Wembley Stadium, England in 1924.

chuckwagonracing.jpgAnother brother, Harold, was taken on as Assistant Manager and supervised the erection of rodeo chutes, corrals and arena in a West End Ball Park. Brother Ernest Perrin of Maple Creek area cut the poles and posts for the first corrals in the Cypress Hills in the Piapot Creek area. A purse of $800 plus entry fees was put up for the two day show - June 30th and July 1st. Events were: Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Riding, Calf Roping, Bareback Riding, Wild Cow Milking and Wild Horse Race. Featured extra attractions for the rodeo were: Gib Potter, Canadian Trick Roper, Olive Leonard of Braddock with her trained horse and Pete Perrin of Beechy, also a brother of Don Perrin, who was rodeo clown and also had a trick pony. Johnny Scott of the Matador Ranch was the first rodeo announcer.

In 1938 and through the earliest years of the rodeo many area ranchers supplied stock for the rodeo. Among them were: Stewart and Ian Grant of Val Marie, John Trottier of Lac Pelletier, Walter Knight of Stewart Valley, C.H. Nels Funk of Beaver Flat, and the John Minor and Frank Yeast ranches northwest of Swift Current in the Abbey and Fox Valley areas. Trailing horses and cattle to the Swift Current Rodeo was a time consuming task in the early days. With these words Pete Perrin recalls and early trip. "Helped C. H. Funk of Beaver Flat ferry 30 cows and calves at Saskatchewan River Landing enroute from Matador to Swift Current for the Rodeo. That could not be termed a long trip but just imagine the change -100 miles for the round trip or four big days of trailing. Today a liner would do it in the same number of hours."

The best bucking horse at the 1938 rodeo was "Cream Puff", owned by Stewart Grant of Val Marie. Freddie Galarneau of Finnegan, Alta. was leading the bronc riding after the first day of the show and drew Cream Puff for his July First ride. Freddie threw caution to the winds despite being the leader in the judges' books, and lost the battle with Cream Puff, who bucked him off and stamped a hole in his hat after he was thrown. Swift Current rodeo fans still talk about Fred's ride and Cream Puff was soon immortalized by the Kinetics in a song written to be sung to the tune, "Josephine".

"Oh, there never was a bronc just as tough
As the mare they called Cream Puff,
Now when she leaves the chutes
There's a squall on the loose,
She's TNT.
Seems to me she's partly devil;
There's a demon in her eyes.
She uncoils like a snake,
As you sit there and rake
The rowels down her flanks and sides.
Oh, I guess it would be better
Just to scratch and then forget her;
All the punchers think it would be wise,
But I took my chance and drew her;
And the points are hard to get:
She's sure to be the one to catch the judges' eyes.
So I ooze down on the seat;
Now they throw wide the gate,
Out we spurt;
And I sprawl
In the dirt."

Cream Puff was the top Swift Current horse for some years. Her career ended in 1941 when she bucked into the arena fence and was killed. She was buried in the rodeo arena with full honours.

The response to the Kinetics' publicity campaign and planned program for the 1938 rodeo was overwhelming; and the unique display of community support gained national attention in newspapers, magazines and radio and newsreels. Thousands came to see and share in the fun at the "Bearded Frontier City" both prior to and during the rodeo. On July First, Canada's birthday, and the second day of the rodeo over 20,000 visitors invaded the city and overran the 5,000 capacity Fair Grounds. At the Saskatchewan River Landing Ferry , 30 miles north of Swift Current, vehicles were backed up waiting for the ferry. At one time during the day over 150 vehicles were waiting to get across. Although food and accommodation were short, and many were forced to sleep in cars and in hotel lobbies, the thousands of visitors went home happy and a new rodeo destined to carry on for decades was born.