Nicola Valley's Western Heritage

The rodeo grounds and venue were built and, for more than half a century, have been run by the Nicola Valley Rodeo Association. The grassland expanses of the Nicola Valley are home to some of British Columbia’s oldest ranches. They and five First Nations communities centered around the Merritt community form the foundation of the ranching and rodeo heritage of the Nicola Valley.

This legacy continues every year with the signature event, the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo, on the September long weekend.

Throughout the rest of the year, the Rodeo Grounds host a wide range of events including ranch rodeos, youth rodeos, barrel racing, other equestrian events and clinics.


Image I29166 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives


Photo credit to Mark Steffens: Fotoguy Photography. 

In 2017, the Nicola Valley Rodeo Association first paid tribute to a number of members of our community who, by their lifestyle and work, have embodied the western culture and tradition that has played such a large role in the history of this area. This year, at our 63rd rodeo, the NVRA wishes to recognize and honour the following individuals:

2023 Western Heritage Honourees - Cooks & Cowboys

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    Monica Coutlee

    Raised in the beautiful Douglas Lake area at Spaxomin by parents Eva and Michel Tom, Monica started helping her Grandma Nellie cooking at cow camps as a young girl. Cooking at camps like Harry’s Crossing, Norfolk and Garcia, Monica Fed as many as 18 cowboys in addition to husband Jake and her three kids for the amazing sum of 60$ a month. For almost twenty years Monica fed a crew, experienced having a bear steal a week’s worth of bacon and listened to stories from the likes of cow boss Mike Ferguson. Finishing up her working life hairdressing with shorter days and more pay Monica is now enjoying retirement with husband of 57 years, Jake. Congratulations Monica - there would have been a lot of belly aching without you.

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    Linda McKenzie

    Linda returned to the Nicola Valley in 1972 to spend the summer Dude Wrangling at the historic Quilchena Hotel. Working for Douglas Lake on the branding and turn out crew for the next two years, Linda started camp cooking soon after that, mentored by role model Monica Coutlee. Accompanied by her three children, in the early years Linda cooked at remote camps like Raspberry, Louis Corrals, and Courtney Lake for 10-15 cowboys in addition to DLC home ranch and 10 years at Nicola Ranch for close to 30 years. Linda is a great example, starting work before some of the cowboys even got home from town and like Monica, we salute her amazing work ethic.  

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    Barry Wallace

    Barry and his wife Ida arrived at Douglas Lake Ranch in 1974, with a young family, to pursue a passion for western life. Barry cowboyed for several ranches including Quilchena, Nicola and Pike Mountain and also spent time caretaking ranches. The pioneering spirit enabled Barry and his family to homestead properties in the Nicola Valley and the Cariboo, and his grandchildren received the lessons and value of hard work through this process. Recently passed away, Barry will be remembered for his quality leatherwork, a generous spirit, and a man comfortable with his own company. 

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    Howie Holmes

    Howie grew up at Spaxomin, the son of Louis Holmes and Susan Charters. Riding and ranching from a young age in the Douglas Lake country, Howie went on to become a top hand cowboying for Douglas Lake Ranch, Nicola Ranch, and ranches in Washington state. One the only cowboys in the Nicola Valley to ride his horse through the Coldwater Hotel Bar, Howie also competed successfully roping at interior rodeos. Operating a large cowherd of his own, raising hay and contract feeding Guichon Ranch heifers, he was an all-round rancher. We ask you to salute another Nicola Valley legend. 

Who are our previous honourees? 2022 2019 2018 2017

When you’ve used up all your tomorrowsCause you used your last one todayYou’re wondering where the years have goneand if you’ve watched your youth pass away
There’s every horse that cracked the gatewho wore the YL brandAnd every kid that held the reinsthat tried to make a hand

There are bronc riders, contractors and cowmenall gathered here todayTo stand up and recognize the contributionsYou have made
You’ve got the ghost of Jason Coutlee and Woodward’s right hand manDave Perry and Mike Ferguson standing upwith hat in hand
And there’re those to come in the futureto ride for the outfit brandsAll standing and applauding you for carving this great cow land

There are few in this life that can speak very loudYet not having said a wordAnd pass on to others the code of the westCause their actions spoke louder than words
So thanks for this code that you taught us to live by day to dayAnd this is our way to say thanks for the teachingAnd preserving the cowboy way

by Gord Colliar – used with permission