This year will be the fourth annual New Year’s Eve Bullarama and Dance at the North Thompson Agriplex in Barriere. What started as an idea discussed over coffee has grown to an economic driver for the region; all thanks to Steven Puhallo and Ed Lebourdais, key founders of the Farm Kids Scholarship Fund.
“It’s been a pretty incredible project and we’re proud of having established this bursary for ‘Farm Kids’ in our local school district,” said Puhallo, “Education is the silver bullet for our young people to reach their dreams and be who they want to be.”
Puhallo says that what started out as an idea over coffee became a great way to honour the memory of his Uncle, Mike Puhallo, who was lost due to cancer back in 2011.
“It was something Mike and I had talked about on and off,” he said, “I remember going and visiting him near his end, and spending time with the man who had taught me so much, and had inspired me to do good for the community; I made a promise to do this project for him. So many people came together to make this happen and we got it done.”
Steven Puhallo and his wife Jenn moved back home to Kamloops in 2011 to raise their family.
“I wanted to do something for Mike that would reflect his values and interests,” said Puhallo, “He was so many things to so many people. Most of all he was a cowboy through and through.
“In talking about that with Ed Lebourdais, who knew my Uncle well, we came up with this event. Ed dove right into it and is a core reason this event is so successful. The support we received from the Lebourdais family and the Whispering Pines/Clinton Band was amazing.”
Puhallo says once the decision was made to host a New Year’s Eve Bullarama in Barriere it was pretty nerve wrecking in the first year.
“The North Thompson Agriplex was still under construction, we had no arena steel, and nobody had started a new agri-sport event in the area for a number of years. When I told people we were putting on a professional bullriding and dance in Barriere, in the middle of winter, they told us we were nuts. I love proving naysayers wrong!
“So many people stepped up to the plate and got involved. It was magical and a really touching moment when we saw that line-up of people and cars stretching out at our first event,” said Puhallo, “It felt like that moment at the end of ‘Field of Dreams’. We built it (the event) and people came!”
Puhallo says after three years of the Farm Kids Fund putting on the event as a fundraiser to start their bursary legacy, it is now time to hand the reins over, and that 2015 is the transition year to do just that.
“I’m grateful for everyone who got involved and the solid team that came together for these events,” said Puhallo, “With the bursary up and running, it’s great to hand off the event to the North Thompson Fall Fair folks. This is a big event for Barriere and creates a lot of economic spin-off for the area.”
The event will now become a major fundraiser for sustaining and maintaing the North Thompson Agriplex and Fall Fair facility. However, the Fall Fair will be donating a percentage of the profit from the New Year’s Eve event annually to support the Farm Kids Fund bursary program.
Puhallo voiced his thoughts about the Bullarama event and how it has grown.
“I think at the end of the day I’m most proud of the new equipment and indoor arena set-up we helped get for the Agriplex, bringing professional bullriding to the North Thompson Valley, and working with the great people of Barriere in making this event the success it has become.
“I believe it’s all about the team, and the team around this event should be extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished!”
Tickets are still available for this year’s Dec. 31 event, which Puhallo says by all appearances will be another sell out.
The Farm Kids Fund will continue as a $200 bursary (each) for a male and female graduating grade 12 student from School District #73 for 2016 and into the future. The 2015 Farm Kids Fund recipient was Katie Elliott.
Check out: www.farmkidsfund.ca, or on Facebook.
Find out more at: www.fallfair-rodeo.com or Facebook: North Thompson Agriplex, North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association.