By Tim Kalinowski, Staff Writer
Swift Current, (sometimes affectionately known as Speedy Creek by the locals), is not the first place one might think of when compiling a list of great summer festivals to attend on the prairies. But the fact is the community of about 16,000 residents doubles in size every summer when Frontier Days comes to town.
Visitors flock to the city to take in one of the best organized, most entertaining and most affordable summer fairs around. Just five dollars for adults will get you into the gate, (children 12 & under get in free), and from there it is entirely up to you how much you spend and what amusements you wish to take in.
There are Grandstand concerts every night featuring well-known performers, there are first rate Light and Heavy Horse shows, the 4-H district steer sale, and a fantastic mid-way for magical family experiences and wild rides provided by West Coast Amusements.
There is also an excellent Canadian Cowboys Association rodeo, whose all volunteer committee was voted CCA Rodeo Committee of the Year in 2015. And there is fantastic parade which winds through historic downtown Swift Current to help bring the entire community together to celebrate Frontier Days.
As an added bonus this year, Frontier Days falls on the Canada Day weekend. Lenora Bells, event development coordinator with the Swift Current Ag. & Ex. Association, says the already high octane festival is being cranked up another notch to celebrate.
“It’s an exciting factor this year! People coming out can do the parade that morning, and then people can go to the park and take in the celebrations there for Canada Day through Swift Current Tourism. And then come on down to the grounds to take in the rodeo, the Grandstand entertainment that night, and then the fireworks! This year, because of Canada Day, we have two nights of fireworks,” says an enthusiastic Bells.
Bells grew up near Vanguard, Saskatchewan where her family had a cattle operation. As a child she remembers her parents bringing her to Frontier Days in Swift Current; and all the exciting sights and sounds of the annual carnival, rodeo and fair.
Later on, she brought her own children to the event to give them the same experience. Bells says that is what is so magical about Frontier Days; every generation rediscovers and renews its wonder.
“I think the best part back then was we could identify with what was going on here with the cattle and the horses; sort of that whole western atmosphere with the rodeo,” remembers Bells with a smile. “And then, of course, adding the mid-way and the thrill of the rides and taking in the mid-way food, it was something very special as I was growing up. And then when my own children started coming, they were thrilled too because it was a big production with all the rides, night time concerts and the rodeo. It was thrilling for them… Kids have a chance to experience all these things up close as part of their whole adventure.”
About 500 volunteers work throughout the year to bring this magical atmosphere to young and old alike. For Bells, their work continues to be a strong testament to the far-reaching vision of the event’s founders in 1938, who wanted to create a great gathering of peoples in celebration of rural life. And to bring people together to share and partake of all the western lifestyle has to offer.
“It’s great feeling of community, of getting together and enjoying what’s happening right here at Frontier Days and enjoying each other,” explains Bells. “Some things have stayed the same: The rodeo, for example. Our Frontier Days still centres around the Canadian Cowboys Association rodeo. We also always had the parade, but when it first started it was the cowboys and cowgirls riding up and down Main Street playing their guitars and singing songs. That has progressed. Now we include all these service clubs and businesses, and people can really feel part of the experience. Over the years we have just grown and grown.”
Every year Frontier Days tries to top itself, says Bells, and this year is no different. The theme for 2016 is “Ridin’, Rockin’ and Livestockin’.” According to Bells, the theme captures the essence of what they are trying to create: A hugely entertaining event which appeals to all ages. An event which remains true to its western heritage while at the same time reaching toward the future in a powerful and exciting way.
This is not your great grandfather’s rodeo and country fair, says Bells.
“It’s going to be a wild time. And it’s just going to be fun for the whole family. There is something for everyone. We have family entertainment for the young and the old.”
This year’s Grandstand performers reflect this broad reach and theme. The Hunter Brothers and Link Union take to the stage for some soulful harmonies on Wednesday, June 29. The Road Hammers, featuring Julian Austin, take the party long into the night on Canada Day leading into a fantastic fireworks extravaganza. And legendary Canadian rockers Finger Eleven hit the stage on Saturday, July 2 to send Frontier Days off with a bang.
“Come on out! You don’t want to miss this.” says Bells with emphasis. “We have the best volunteers. They welcome everyone, and they are here to help this experience to be the best you and your friends and family can have!”
To learn more about the
Swift Current Agricultural and Exhibition Association’s Frontier Days celebration visit their website at www.swiftcurrentex.com or call their Kinetic Park number at (306) 773-2944. Frontier Days starts on June 29 and goes until July 2.