By Editor on December 4, 2019
Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo Assocation has been hosting events in Merritt for over 50 years. File Photo/Herald
Merritt City Council heard two requests for funding from community organizations at its Nov. 26 regular meeting.
Merritt & District Chamber of Commerce and Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo Association representatives both gave explanations of the benefits their organizations provide in terms of co-operation, tourism and community promotion.
Scott Hildebrand, Merritt’s chief administrative officer, said in an email later, “We will discuss both of these items with the mayor and determine the best option. Given that both of these items are 2020 budget items it would make more sense to include these in our budget process versus making individual decisions.”
Chamber president Kim McLean took to the public input podium, with backup from board member Ryan Wuthe, to ask the City for $25,000 in support for 2020.
“We’re working toward the same goal: to make Merritt better,” McLean said.
She suggested the efforts of the all-volunteer group would be better focused on community betterment, not fundraising.
Coun. Tony Luck suggested fundraising is a typical activity for most chambers of commerce, but Wuthe explained, “We’re only asking to pull ourselves out of financial debt,” which had accumulated under previous leadership.
Coun. Travis Fehr asked if funding would be needed for future years, but the representatives said they hope to support the group by building up the membership and holding more networking events like “business after business” or golf days.
Jacqueline Whitecross spoke on behalf of the rodeo association. While she said she had been involved for over 30 years, she added that enthusiastic new members had come on board recently.
“We pray and stress a lot that we’ll be able to cover everything (in terms of expenses),” she said, but noted the association had seen a small profit this year.
Whitecross suggested a “cost-effective security system” is a priority to prevent vandalism at the rodeo grounds. Responding to a question from Mayor Linda Brown, she said another key issue was upgrading the announcers’ and VIP booth and its rickety stairs.
Whitecross suggested better lighting in the stalls, a watering truck or tank to reduce dust, and adding to the arena itself are all needed.
“Nicer grounds will attract more people.”
Coun. Mike Bhangu asked what added revenue sources the association might find. Whitecross said the facility could host more rodeos and events like RCMP Musical Ride that would draw more visitors to the arena and city.
Coun. Kurt Christopherson said: “The rodeo brings in a lot of people, and it’s good for business.” He asked if the association had used the services of the City’s grant writer, and Whitecross said the group planned to do so.
Coun. Luck said, “The rodeo is a huge driver for tourism…you guys do a great job.”