IPRA members, Zac, Sylvain, Tania & Michael Bourgeois - BIRTZ Photographie
Story by Lindsay Whelchel - Rodeo News
The Bourgeois family might as well be the “First Family” when it comes to rodeo in Quebec, Canada. And if so, Festival Western de St. Tite would be their equivalent to the Fourth of July.
During the time Sylvain Bourgeois was a competitor in the bronc riding, the opportunity arose for him to be the rodeo director of St. Tite’s rodeo. He vowed to make it bigger than ever before and helped to turn it into a 10-day festival that attracts visitors and rodeo fans by the 100s of thousands. But making St. Tite a destination event for rodeo competitors was only the beginning of what Sylvain wanted to do within the sport.
“The festival hired me in 1995 to be their rodeo director, and after three years I just started to realize if we wanted to have better rodeos and better contestants we needed more rodeos, so me and my friend started Wildtime Production in 2000.”
They’ve been firing up the Canadian rodeo scene ever since, holding about 10-15 events each year.
“Where we’re from, when I first started working for the festival, I wanted to do it different, because we don’t have a crowd that really knows rodeo, so we made sure that we entertained them different ways. Even from the start I always thought that production was really important,” Sylvain says and adds of his crew, “over the years I hired people that are really good at doing their jobs. I’m kind of a conservator type of guy. I keep them around. There are people that have been with me 21 years and most of them over 10 years. They know and love being part of what we do. Our job is to entertain the people in the stands, and make sure every contestant has an equal chance to win money and compete safely. We try to do our best every place we go.”
Beyond Sylvain’s crew, the stock contracting business and the sport of rodeo is something his entire family is, not just involved in, but passionate about.
Sylvain’s wife Tania helps with merchandising and public relations. She and her sister grew up as barrel racers. His son Mike does the music for the events that are famous for hyping up the rodeo crowds with dancing and energy. Sylvain and Tania’s son Zac is an up-and-coming bull rider who competes in the junior bulls events at the rodeos and was a spokesman for 2015’s Festival Western de St. Tite. His brother-in-law, Ben, is a retired champion in the Canadian events of pick up and exchange races, and his niece, Jessica Gauthier, will be competing in the barrel racing at the International Finals Rodeo 46.
“For us I think we’re very fortunate. We’re passionate about rodeo. It’s a living for us, so we’re all together. It makes me lucky that I have all my family around,” Tania explains of the business that keeps them close together.
They stay busy especially through the summer months until the last rodeo of the season for them, which is none other than the one that started it all, Festival Western de St. Tite.
“It’s crazy during summer from the May until the end of September. It’s every week we’re gone. We’re home about one day per week, so winter we rest and try to figure out how we can improve,” Tania says.
The town of St. Tite is special for the family beyond the rodeo. Tania and Sylvain, as well as her sister and brother in law, got married in the town, and now she and Sylvain call it home.
“For me this city, it brought me so much; love, it opened some doors for rodeo and to meet awesome people. This is a unique village where you can’t find the atmosphere anywhere else, so for me, I’m happy to live here. Everyone has heard about St. Tite, and they wonder how come it’s a small village like that and it becomes crazy during the festival,” Tania says. It’s a town that loves rodeo.
Zac expresses his commitment to the sport, and especially his chosen event of bull riding.
“I love the sport so much, the adrenaline of this. I like to train. I really want to be on top of this game,” he says.
Both Tania and Sylvain support Zac in his blooming career.
“We know he really loves it so we’re 100 percent behind him,” Sylvain says.
Tania echoes this sentiment and adds that now that rodeo is a bigger deal in their part of the country, he’ll have more access to grow his career.
“He’s very passionate and serious about it, and we try our best to encourage him.
I think he’s going to go far with all the tools we have for him. It’s not easier, but [now] rodeo is more known.”
And with the added influence of Wildtime Production and the Bourgeois family, many contestants can likely agree.