Located 45 minutes north of Trois-Rivières, between Montréal and Quebec City, Saint-Tite is home to a population of approximately 4 000 people.
At one time, it was the central meeting-place for lumberjacks from the northern stretches of the Mauricie region where many forest workers lived. The forestry and leather industries created an important and active economical situation in the area. These days, the FESTIVAL WESTERN DE ST-TITE contributes to the local economy in a big way.
Nowadays, Saint-Tite specializes in the transformation of leather and manufactures products of this material, giving it the title “Leathertown of Quebec”. These products are well known for their excellent quality all across Canada, the United States and in Europe.
The leather industry is the basis of the western Festival. It is also the reason for its origin.
1962 – The company of G.A. Boulet Inc., leather-manufacturing specialists, decided to focus their production on western boots.
1967 – As a publicity strategy, a rodeo day was organized. The local baseball stadium was used for this event. Regardless of the rain which fell insistently the whole day, about five to six thousand visitors took part in this first celebration.
1968 – Several local merchants grouped together and formed an Association of merchants, industries and businesses of Saint-Tite. These members got together with G.A. Boulet Inc. in an effort to expand on last year’s experience. Together, it was hoped to create a viable attraction to encourage personal potential and to boost the local economy. After the spontaneous success of 1967, a momentum was created. By 1968, no less than 25 committees were formed to plan a tourist attraction without equal. The Festival acquired its first logo in that year. The participation of volunteers and local citizens contributed largely in making this a concrete enterprise. The majority of the population participate by wearing costumes and sporting the official hat which symbolize the western trend. The organizers of this first edition focus mainly on the creation of a professional Rodeo and equestrian competitions. All this takes place in the local College schoolyard where bleachers, found somewhere in Montréal, where installed. During the following years, several activities are added to the Festival. The town animates and “dresses” itself in a western atmosphere.
1969 – The symbolic western parade makes its appearance. Horse-pulls, old-fashioned weddings and a variety of shows appear on the program. With the years, installations and services are improved: security, circulation, property moves, lodging, restoration, sanitary services… everything is done with the satisfaction of the visitors, cowboy and the local population in mind, as well as meeting with government standards. The horses, which were previously kept in temporary lodging, can now stay in actual stables.
1972 – A stadium was built. In 1999, new installations were built using the highest quality structure with seating capacity for 7 200 people.
1974 – An informal census based on the number of cars and passengers reveals that 250 000 visitors attended over a ten-day period. Even at this early stage, the Festival Western de St-Tite was quickly becoming very popular.
1978 – The grandstand and stables are refurbished. A campground, as well as parking space for horse owners is set up. Also, certain roads benefit from a fresh covering of gravel, to better facilitate access to certain lots.
1979 – Mr. Jacques Parizeau, Minister of Finance for Québec, visits Saint-Tite. After touring the various sites of the Festival as well as certain industries, he declares that the western Festival is without a doubt an organization which surpasses the town and the surrounding area, and the opportunity is there to become bigger and better. It is important to note that the Festival is more lucrative with each ensuing year. Budgets, committees and visitors have learned with time that the proportions of the Festival are more optimistic than anyone would ever have imagined.
1981 – A crash in monetary and human resources is evident, and the Festival consults with the local population to take action to adjust to the needs and demands of one and all. They get their second wind and go ahead with their cavalcade.
1984 – The Festival Western de St-Tite obtains a grant from the Federal government in the amount of 500 000 $ for the construction of a roof over the grandstand.
1986 – A torrential downpour forces the emergency evacuation of all the campers and cowboys located in the low-lying areas of the horseman’s post house.
1989 – To the delight of fans, Céline Dion takes to the stage in the Festival Western de St-Tite grandstand.
1993 and 1997 – The Festival Western de St-Tite wins Silver in the Quebec Tourism Grand Prix in the innovation category.
1995 – All grandstand seating is numbered, which greatly increases efficiency for all events taking place at this venue. Previously, tickets were issued on the day of the event only, which caused major line-ups and unknowns from a revenue perspective. The arrival of a new rodeo director creates another milestone in the Festival’s history; a professional rodeo association sanctions all rodeo event taking place during the Festival.
1999 – The grandstand gets another makeover, at a cost of 2,4 million dollars (CDN). From now on, the Festival Western de St-Tite grandstand can welcome 7 200 visitors.
2002 – The Festival Western de St-Tite budget reaches 2 million dollars and its 9 professional rodeos draw over 50 000 spectators.
2004 – For a second time, Mother Nature tests the St-Tite community and the local population’s capacity to overcome challenges. As a result of the downpour, the official campground again becomes a temporary lake. Ironically, this event transpires during the 37th Edition, whose theme was “Branded for Life”! None of the activities were cancelled despite the terrible weather.
2006 – The Festival Western de St-Tite welcomes a popular TV program called “La Poule aux œufs d’or spécial country”. It is the first time the show is produced outside its usual studio venue.
2007 – For its 40th Edition, the Festival pulls out all stops and welcomes over 725 000 visitors, which is a record. This exceptional success can be attributed, among other things, to a series of great events, which included a show by the renowned Kenny Rogers, the Canada Cup, and a PBR event. All this, combined with bold and enriched programming, made the 40th Edition one to remember.
2008 – The Festival Western de St-Tite takes a green turn. Sustainable development becomes a priority and steps are taken to reduce its environmental footprint.
2009 – The time has come for the Organization to set its sights on international horizons. The Festival already has an excellent reputation overseas, but continues to develop and maintain its international ties to Country Western. Hence begins a series of initiatives to promote and represent the Festival Western de St-Tite in markets outside provincial borders, namely France and the USA. Concurrently, the Festival Western de St-Tite teams up with Rock Vision 60′ from Quebec City and offer Festival visitors a premier presentation of Beatlemania and Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia, which is one of the largest in the world.
Over the last few years, St-Tite has undergone a Westernization process, making the town a unique gateway into Country Western culture. Many merchants have converted their storefronts and most of the infrastructures have been remodelled to look more authentic. Now visitors can enjoy a charming and typically Western experience with all their senses, reminiscent of the cowboy culture in Western Canada.
It is important to highlight that the Western Festival has continuously maintained an upward momentum. Every aspect of the Festival, be it the budget, the committees or the number of visitors, has surpassed even the most optimistic forecasts and predictions.
At the outset, the working budget amounted to 8 500$. Today, the budget is fast approaching the 5 million dollar mark. With its total annual spinoff for the province at over 50 million dollars and after 42 glorious years of existence, it’s no surprise that the Festival Western de St-Tite has become “the biggest Western attraction in Eastern Canada”.
The Festival also owes its success to both local and national sponsorship support. The Festival Western de St-Tite is much more than a tourist event; it’s the heart and soul of a small town where a synergy is created between 600 volunteers and a community. The resulting “open arms welcome” on the part of St-Tite’s citizens offers visitors an unsurpassed feeling of hospitality, make the event an economic powerhouse and one of Canada’s most appreciated tourist destinations. “We don’t just put on a good show…every year in the fall, we create a magical Western world.”