In February of 1888 the first meeting of the Fair was held, in March of that same year a notice was given that the “District of Surrey Agricultural Association” was incorporated as an association under the Agricultural Societies Act. In September of 1888 the first Fair was held in the Surrey Municipal Hall and grounds located at Surrey Centre. The Fair was moved to the present site in Cloverdale in 1938.
In 1962 the Surrey Athletic Association who owned and operated the Cloverdale Community Centre, located on the fairgrounds, was disbanded and assets and members merged with the Lower Fraser Valley Exhibition Society. This helped expand the overall activity and in 1965 a Class “A” status was obtained, thus making it the second “A” Exhibition in B.C.
The Lower Fraser Valley Exhibition Society received permission to call themselves the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association in 1994.
In 1945 it was a small-town rodeo held on the fairgrounds at the corner of Pacific Highway and Old McLellan Road. Today the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition is the second largest community rodeo in Canada , attracting competitors and spectators worldwide.
The idea for it was conceived in 1944 when the late Jack Shannon and Clarke Greenaway, two local horse enthusiasts, were watching a rodeo in Kamloops .
The next year the concept of a local rodeo became the major project of local Kinsmen. It was presented entirely by volunteers and “The West Goes Wilder” proved more popular than anyone’s wildest dreams.
In fact, it was so popular that in 1947 it was taken over by the Lower Fraser Valley Agricultural Association. The turnout was so huge that year, that hundreds of spectators had to be turned away.
In 1948, the year Cloverdale Rodeo went professional, the association rebuilt the corrals, constructed new chutes and fences and extended the racetrack (which also served as the rodeo arena) to one half mile. Grandstands were added to provide seating for an additional 3,000 people.
That year the rodeo had to be postponed from May until Labour Day weekend because of the Fraser River floods. Things were still mucky when Frank Putnam, then agriculture minister, opened the event. In 1950, for the first time, points scored at Cloverdale went towards standings for the title of World Champion All-around Cowboy. That same year, Sam Shannon, OBE (Jack’s brother) crowned the first Rodeo Queen, Patricia Kronebusch with a white stetson hat.
In 1952 Wilf Hodgson became the Rodeo chairman and built the Cloverdale Rodeo into the number 10 rodeo in Canada and number 40 in the world standings in purse money. Wilf remaining in that position until 1965.
From 1965 to 1973 local businessmen took over the running of the Rodeo and interest and revenues declined to the point where the Rodeo lost more than $7,000 and there was talk of shutting the show down completely.
Then in 1974 Will Senger took over as rodeo chairman and helped orchestrate a fantastic 10 year turnaround. In 1983 the Cloverdale Rodeo attracted more contestants than the Calgary Stampede and packed 20,000 spectators into the arena. Will Senger is still with the association as the Arena Manager.
In 1984 the Cloverdale Rodeo was voted the Number One Performance Rodeo in North America by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association.
The Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition has grown into an event of international proportions. Every year more family-oriented displays, features and entertainment are added to the schedule of events, helping establish the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition as an event that has something for everyone.
In 1996, for the first time ever, the 109 year-old annual fall exhibition was rescheduled to be part of world famous rodeo weekend. The traditional exhibition brings agricultural exhibits, animals and local arts and crafts to the already fun-filled long weekend. The exhibition, along with a wide assortment of family activities, truly makes the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition “much more than just a rodeo”.