The Ponoka Stampede’s Rodeo Challenge is about heroes spending time with their fanes but there is so much mutual respect, it’s hard to tell who the true heroes are.
One of the favourite events for the cowboys is the Rodeo Challenge that matches children with a mental or physical challenge with a cowboy or cowgirl to participate in modified rodeo events.
World-renowned rodeo clown Lecile Harris participates in similar challenges “everywhere they have them.”
“I get a lot more out of this than they do,” he said. “If you’re able to make just one of them smile it makes your day.”
There were lots of smiles, high-fives and cheers as chuckwagon drivers helped their young charges into the saddle or onto the back of a “bucking” bull.
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Events included calf roping (contestants learn to rope a wooden calf) and bull riding (contestants ride a hand-rocked bull for eight seconds). There are chuckwagon races (hand-pulled chuckwagons race around the barrels), wagon rides (horse-drawn wagon rides, wheelchair accessible), a petting zoo (small farm yard animals for petting) and face painting.
Each participant gets pictures with their partners sent to them in the mail, cowboy hats, badges and trophies and each family receives complimentary tickets to the rodeo.
Doug Rogers from Bentley was at the Rodeo Challenge for the sixth year. The kids aren’t too interested in Rogers, whose son Daniel has been a contestant before. They’re more interesting in climbing onto the back of Willie, a 3,000-pound bull, six-feet tall at the shoulder.
“It’s just a wonderful experience,” he said. “I love doing it. It melts my heart.”
4-H supports Rodeo Challenge
Members of the xsvcd4-H Club presented a cheque for $2.212 to founders Marjorie Kross and Diane Vold. The money was their share in the charity steer that sold at their Achievement Day. Leader Joyce Winter said the donation is about youths giving back to youths.