What's in a name?
A lot, as it turns out. The Rainmaker Rodeo has seen its share of wet weather over its storied 54 years, but much like the postman, neither rain nor sleet nor snow (and it's experienced it all) could keep the event from growing.
It wasn't always called the Rainmaker Rodeo. When it was started by the Kinsmen Club in 1965, it was called Rodeo 104, which actually marked the 104th birthday of what was then the Town of St. Albert. After experiencing more than its fair share of wet weather over the years, the rodeo earned the moniker 'Rainmaker' (which was invented by the media) in the 1970s.
The rodeo wasn't always in May, either. The event was held in June until the Kinsmen commissioned a weather study in 1984. A recommendation was made that the rodeo be held about a month earlier, so the Kinsmen moved it to May 22 to 24 in 1987. It snowed, of course, but the show went on.
There are certain years that stand out from others, mostly because of the weather. St. Albertans will remember 2010 as one of the worst, with whipping winds and snow which had organizers calling the weather "unprecedented" and "catastrophic." The seats were nearly empty at the midway and rodeo for almost the entire weekend, and the financial impact was devastating. The wicked weather prompted the Kinsmen to invent a new tag line for the rodeo: 'Whether it rains or snows, the Rainmaker goes.'
Gazette staffers remember 2010 all too well. That was the first year the Gazette took on the rodeo pancake breakfast, which was then held in Lions Park. After decades of putting on the Fun Run, which had run its course (pardon the pun), the Gazette jumped at the opportunity to do something fresh and new for the community.
The St. Albert (Host) Lions had been putting on the free breakfast since 1966, but due to declining membership and increased costs, the Lions announced they could no longer host the breakfast. With just a little more than a month to go before the rodeo, the Gazette decided to pick up where the Lions left off. The Gazette staff met weekly to plan the breakfast. The Lions, led by Jack Riley, told us to be prepared to serve anywhere from 1,250 to 2,500 people. That's a lot of coffee, juice, pancakes, sausages and syrup. The Lions, to their credit, were extremely helpful and provided detailed instructions – everything from how much pancake mix to buy to how many coffee urns we'd need.
Suffice it to say, we overbought as the snow kept the crowds way down. It may have been Mother Nature's way of easing us into hosting the breakfast. Today, the Gazette staff run the breakfast like a finely tuned machine, and each year Riley stops by to make sure it stays that way.
So come on down to St. Albert Place Saturday. We'll have the griddles on by 7 a.m. The grub and Tim's coffee are free until the parade kicks off at 9:30 a.m. All we ask is that you bring a donation (food or cash) for the food bank. Then it's off to the Rainmaker.