Get your cowboy boots shined up and straighten that hat because Whoop-Up Days is coming up Aug, 21-25 with all kinds of family fun, live music, bucking and barrels and lots more.
“It begins on Tuesday, Aug. 21 with the parade,” said Exhibition Park marketing manager Doug Kryzanowski.” We already have 105 entries. There is room for 125. This year, it’s a salute to the Rotary Clubs of Lethbridge who celebrate 100 years. There are five of them, so we‘ll have five parade marshals.”
He added there are also more community barbecues and breakfasts this year, which are listed in the Whoop-Up Days guide, which was included in the Lethbridge Herald, Friday, Aug. 10 as well as in other southern Alberta publications. “We have 35 breakfasts and barbecues and that’s only the ones who told us about them. Usually we have about 30, so that’s 20 per cent more,” he continued.
As a result of Whoop-Up Days, the Saturday, Aug. 25 Farmers’ Market will run from 8-11 a.m. The Wednesday Farmers’ Market remains 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
The Sheepdogs open an excellent musical lineup for Whoop-Up Days on Tuesday, Aug. 21 with a special ticketed event. Tickets are $35 in advance from Gas King and $45 at the gate.
Concerts by country band the Road Hammers, (Aug. 22), Prism (Aug. 23), Harlequin (Aug. 24) and rockers Lee Aaron and Helix on Saturday, Aug. 25 are included with gate admission. There will be live entertainment in the Pendleton Saloon in Heritage Hall including one-hit wonder music trivia on Wednesday with DJ-B entertainment, live name that tune with Riff Raff on Friday and performances by country rock band the Ryan Lindsay Band on Thursday and Saturday.
There won’t be any local opening acts on the main stage concerts, which begin at 8 p.m each night.
“We’ve had local opening acts in the past and they have done well. so it isn’t a slap at them, but we wanted to shake things up this year,” Kryzanowski continued.
The other big change is the family stage has been moved indoors into the South Pavilion, where Aln Sands will be performing a magic show as well as a hypnotism show.
Also inside is a marketplace trade show and this year Whoop-Up Days has added an innovation pavilion featuring robotics demos, police K9 dog demos, science experiments with the Lethbridge Public Library, integral hockey and a 3D printing demonstration.
Outside, the midway is back with at least 38 rides including the new ride “Frenzy.”
“That is a wild one,” Kryzanowski said.
Other attractions outside include food trucks, cowboy poet/trick roper Joel and Jasper the steer and a flying trapeze show.
Tipi Village has been expanded to a multi-cultural community park. For the kids, there will be an interactive bubble station and inflatable bouncers and much more.
Also included in gate admission is a Canada vs. U.S. bucking and barrels featuring 16 Canadian and 16 American professional-calibre competitors competing in a pro challenge for prize money in saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding and barrel racing, Aug. 23-25.
“They’re competing for prize money, not points to go on to the National Finals Rodeo. It will be the same four in each event each night, with prizes each night and a winner take all on Saturday,” Kryzanowski continued, adding he did some heavy advertising on Montana radio stations to get American competitors.
Lee Aaron is travelling all over Canada this summer, playing Kitchener’s blues festival on Aug. 11, Rock Ambleside Park in West Vancouver on Aug. 17 and then flying to Saskatoon for the Rock The River Festival on Aug. 18 before coming to Lethbridge with Helix, Aug. 25.
She is touring in support of her new blues rock CD, “Diamond Baby.”
In Lethbrdge she will be joined by her husband John Cody on drums, bassist Dave Reimer and lead guitarist Sean Kelly, who has also worked with Helix, which shares the stage with Aaron
“We’ll be playing the classics and fan favourites everyone wants to see and some new songs,” she said, adding she has been playing with this band for many years.
“I’ve been playing with Dave for 15 years, Sean for four and a half and John for at least 17,” she said.
“I met Sean four-and-a-half years ago when he was writing his book ‘Metal On Ice.’ He’s been wonderful,” she said.
“We love Alberta. We’ve been playing there a lot this year, mostly in Calgary and Edmonton. So I’m looking forward to coming back. The people there are generally really cool,” she continued.
There is no dust on Helix frontman Brian Vollmer, who is excited to return to Lethbridge for Whoop-Up Days, Aug. 25.
In addition to touring all over the world with Helix, he released a solo album, “Vollmer,” teaches BelCanto vocal style, toured with the Trailer Park Boys, appeared in a new animated version of the popular Canadian TV series and even voiced a video game “Concert Kings.”
“When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you get a reputation for being reliable and professional and that leads to opportunities,” said Vollmer from his home in Kitchener.
He formed Helix in 1974 and eventually found success in the ’80s. They independently released their first album in 1979, but didn’t hit it big until their third CD, “No Rest For the Wicked,” which spawned the hits “Heavy Metal Love” and “Don’t Get Mad Get Even.” They are best known for their breakthrough hit “Rock You,” from their next album “Walking the Razor’s Edge,” which was followed up by “Gimmie Gimmie Good Love’ and a cover of A Foot in Cold Water’s ’70s hit “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want.” They toured Canada extensively including some memorable shows in Lethbridge at the Alec Arms Hotel.
“I remember the first time we played there, we told them we were an original band but they weren’t interested. We convinced them to let us play, and said if the people don’t like it you don’t have to pay us. But they liked us a lot and we played for the rest of the shows there,” he said.
He recorded the CD “Get Yer Hands Dirty” with producer and drummer Gavin Brown, who has played with Sarah Harmer, Big Sugar, Great Big Sea and the Skydiggers. He included some of his favourite obscure blues and R and B songs including Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Wilson Pickett’s “If You Need Me,” and a couple of originals, but doesn’t plan on playing any of them with Helix.
“People buy their tickets to hear the hits, so that’s what we’ll be doing,” he said.
“But it’s important to make new music, that’s why I got into the business,” he added.
He will be joined by most of Helix’s best-known ’80s lineup including drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz, bassist Daryl Gray and lead guitarist Kaleb Duck, who took over the lead guitarist’s chair when Brent Doerner retired in 2014.
The Road Hammers return to Lethbridge for Whoop-Up Days, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m.
“I’m the worst guy to ask about timelines, but it has been at least five or six years. But I’ve been to Lethbridge a lot,” observed Road Hammers co-frontman Jason McCoy en route to Nashville to record another Road Hammers album. The Kitchener-based country musician is joined by Albertan musicians Clayton Bellamy and Chris Byrne.
“I love Alberta. Whenever I come to Alberta, I always ask why I left. I lived in Camrose until I was about seven, so my first memories are of Alberta. I grew up in Alberta though I live in Ontario,” he said.
They released their most recent album, “The Squeeze,” in May 2017 featuring several hit singles including “All Your Favourite Bands,” “The Squeeze,” “Haulin’ Ass,” and “One Horse Town.”
The band’s sense of humour comes to the fore on “Haulin’ Ass,” which shows McCoy picking up “escaped convicts,” bandmates Clayton Bellamy and Chris Byrne, while transporting a donkey and “No, that was no fun at all,” McCoy laughed.
“We always like to have fun with videos,” he said, adding the Road Hammers allows the members to blend their different musical tastes.
“I’m more of a traditional country guy. Clayton is more of a rock guy,” he said, adding songs are chosen according to the best, so there are a few collaborations including with hit maker Jeffrey Steele.
“He basically wrote the top of the country charts. I’ve known Jeff for years,” McCoy continued.
There are several ticket pricing packages this year. Admission is $15 in advance from Gas King until midnight, Aug. 20, then $20 at the gate. You can also get a super ticket including gate admission and admission to all rides. for $45 in advance, $65 at the gate.
And if you want to spend the entire day there, admission is only five dollars before 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with all kiddie rides for a twoonie and four dollars for adult rides. or you can get an all day ride pass for $45, or a red book of 20 ride tickets for $23, or blue book with 40 tickets for $45. Otherwise ride tickets are $1.25.
Children 10 and under get in for free and seniors and veterans/military personell get in for $5.
The midway runs from 1-11 p.m. each day except after the parade when it opens at noon or as soon as the parade ends.