The annual Ride for STARS at Rumsey is set to go this Sunday for a record-setting 23rd time.
The trail ride operates under the umbrella of the Rumsey and District Agricultural Society and has the distinction of being the longest-running charity event for STARS.
The day begins with a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m., with the trail ride leaving from the TL Bar Ranch, north of Tolman Bridge, at 10:30 a.m. A beef-on-a-bun supper will be served from 4 to 6 p.m. to conclude the day.
“We are the longest-running support group for STARS,” said Ernie Goddard, chairman of the local Ride for STARS committee for the past 20 years.
“The average for most groups is five years. After 10 years, STARS came to us to see what we were doing that others weren’t.”
Goddard has led all the trail rides and explains there are two trails — one for the more seasoned rider and the other for those with less experience or with young children along.
It was a suggestion by Rosalie Macfarland of Rowley, a nurse in Drumheller, which gave the first Ride for STARS at Rumsey its start. There was already a trail ride club in the area that held poker rallies and she suggested adding the STARS ride to it.
“Our aim that first year was to raise $1,000,” said Goddard’s wife, Jacqui.
The results far surpassed the organizers’ goal at the initial ride in 1990, with 90 riders raising $12,000.
For the first five years, the trail ride was held on the property of John Griffiths, on top of the river banks overlooking the river. Griffiths was the committee chairman for the first three years.
In 1995, the trail ride was moved down to the TL Bar Ranch, in the picturesque Red Deer River valley, where it has remained since.
Jacqui has kept records for every Ride for STARS in a large binder; filled with statistics of the event, newspaper clippings, photographs and other items of interest.
There have been as many as 140 riders at the event. In the past, there have been international riders from China, Germany, Japan and the U.S.
Last year, ridership was down due to poor weather, with only 68 riders. Yet they still managed to raise an impressive $30,578.
To date, the group has collected $509,691 to keep the STARS helicopters in the sky. Organizers have set their next goal at $600,000.
When the Rumsey group hit the $250,000 mark in 2003, it was inducted into the STARS Chairman’s Circle with the unveiling of the Rumsey Agricultural Society’s logo on the tail fin. At the $500,000 level of support, the Rumsey logo was moved to a more prominent position on all the STARS helicopters, alongside the large corporate sponsors.
In 2000 and 2004, STARS brought their helicopters to the Rumsey trail ride for display.
“They (STARS) are so proud of us and are amazed we have kept the ride going for so long,” Ernie said.
A quilt raffle, with proceeds to STARS, has been held in conjunction with the ride for the past 20 years. It was started by Stella Richmond, who made and donated her last quilt at age 92.
The family tradition carries on today, with Joanne Richmond contributing a quilt each year. The raffles have contributed thousands of dollars to the worthy cause.
The resources of the entire Rumsey community are needed to stage the Ride for STARS.
“It’s lots of work,” said Jacqui, who explained some of the duties.
“The Rumsey Fire Department looks after the pancake breakfast, the Ag Society members set up the tables and chairs (and) other folks set up the tents. TL Bar Ranch hosts the event at their ranch, the supper is looked after by local caterers, the Country Cookers — Mary, Doris and crew — and they don’t charge a catering fee. It involves so many others, too.”
The Goddards said they “sure are proud of the Rumsey community” for the hours of work volunteered and sponsorship given to the event.
In addition to the meals, raffle and collecting pledges for the STARS ride, there’s also a poker rally at $5 per hand, STARS souvenirs on sale and a silent auction, with many donated items, at the event.
There are prizes for participants collecting the most pledges in both senior and junior categories.
Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions have lent their continuous support with the donation, once again, of a pair to tickets to their popular train ride, to be won by some lucky person.
“It is not necessary to be a rider to be a participant,” said Jacqui, “some people come just for the supper and the silent auction.”
To register, or for more information, contact Ernie and Jacqui Goddard at 403-368-2132, Kendra Kiemele at 403-368-3740, or visit online at https://foundation.stars.ca/rumseyride.