About This Festival
This Ain't Texas
Gunslingers, binge-drinking at the saloon and rolling tumbleweeds are just some of the elements popularly associated with the Old West during the 1900s. A rip-snortin' good time like the Old West is not only exclusive to the Southwestern United States; it's been galloping up north in the town of Saint-Tite of Quebec, Canada, every September for half a century. No one expected such a rough, rugged and raw gathering to take place across the Canadian border, but Festival Western de St-Tite is the literal translation.
For 10 days, Saint-Tite champions authenticity so guests can escape their daily encounters with modernity. Roaring onto the scene are more than 400 fearless cowboys from around the world ready to live wild and free in a series of rodeo competitions. They embark on a whiplash-inducing journey that screams "YEEHAW!" like nothing else you've ever heard. Contestants saddle up on bulls and horses to compete in highly anticipated contests such as the classic "how long can they hang on 'til they're flung off?" event. The cowboys will also rope up some calves, race through a cloverleaf pattern made of barrels and engage in many other fast and furious events.
While these feisty animals are kicking up dirt, some people are grooving to a massive lineup of country music acts at one of seven venues that embody the Western style. The twangy tunes inspires an energetic dancing show at Country Club DesJardins, adding up to more than 75 hours of country dancing combined. It turns out that the festival is also a place where lovers can tie the knot. Those seeking a Western-style wedding have to send in a letter explaining why they want to get married in the midst of a dust-kicking rodeo. It's safe to say that there will always be a reason for a hootin' and a hollerin' while you're here.
From Fancy Shoes to Cowboy Boots
Saint-Tite's strong suit lies in the leather industry, and it owes a lot of its success to businessman Georges-Alidor Boulet. Beginning in 1933, his men's dress shoe factory switched gears due to the demand of military footwear for the Canadian Armed Forces in World War II. Sometime after the Allies' victory, Boulet Inc. dove head-first into family business territory by bringing his sons Roger, Robert and Reynald on board. The three sons caught a whiff of Western culture and decided to manufacture some Western boots under the family brand. Boulet Inc. became the first Canadian company to manufacture this style of boots, but its influence on Saint-Tite doesn't end there.
One day in 1967, the Boulet brothers took their interest in Western culture outside of work while still on the clock. As a publicity stunt, they tested an action-packed rodeo in a local baseball stadium which managed to draw in thousands of rowdy guests. Everyone had such a hog-killin' time that it attracted dozens of nearby businesses fixing to stimulate economic growth. Some people probably thought the concept would fall off sooner rather than later, but Festival Western de St-Tite continues to ride success like a ferocious bull to this day. It's been packing a wallop for so long that local shop owners have given their stores a makeover to mirror the Western look.
Round 'Em Up
Your ordinary compass may have its directions aligned with the planet's magnetic field, but this is no time for science. The Old West is alive and well in Saint-Tite, and it's achieved recognition well beyond its borders. Intended as a local economy booster, the festival's widespread popularity has rounded up guests well outside of Quebec. With more than half a million people making the trip annually, not even the Mayans could have predicted that Canada would trade in its ice skates and hockey sticks for lassos and angry bulls. Even the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) has declared Festival Western de St-Tite the Best Outdoor Rodeo for the last 17 years. So, there you have it—straight from the horse's mouth.