Ponoka will once again show off this week that it is indeed rodeo country.
A total of nine competitors from the area will strut their stuff in Edmonton starting today, Wednesday, Nov. 11 as the chute opens on the 2015 edition of the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR). The CFR runs from Nov. 11 to Nov. 15 in conjunction with Farm Fair International in Edmonton.
As part of recognizing that accomplishment, the Ponoka Stampede committee hosted a send-off on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inside the Calnash Ag Events Centre.
And once again, there is a distinct possibility that at least one title will be coming back to the Ponoka area with local cowboy Jake Vold being the overwhelming favourite in the bareback event.
Vold, who is the defending CFR champion, enters as the standings leader – a position he has held since the middle of June – and having earned nearly double the money this year compared to the second place qualifier. He also holds the distinction of having been at the CFR in each year he has been on the professional circuit, this one marking his sixth CFR appearance.
“I want to say I’m heading into the CFR a bit more relaxed,” the 28-year-old Vold said at the send-off event.
“But, I think I want to win it this time around more than ever.”
Despite having a target on him as the defending champion, as well as heading in as the winner of the Wrangler Tour, Vold is approaching the road to another potential Canadian title in a manner similar to last year.
“It’s about the same, only difference I think is I’m a bit wiser and have learned more about what it takes. I’m excited to go back. I’ve always wanted to be like the big guys I grew up watching, then I got in and started beating them. I just hope to accomplish what I set out, but it’s gonna be tough.”
Another area cowboy that is bucking for a Canadian title is 29-year-old bull rider Zane Lambert, who is going to his second CFR and ranked 6th, and wants to do his adopted home proud. He moved to the area after coming from Manitoba to go to Lakeland College several years ago and has been sticking around after getting married to a local girl.
“After competing for 15 years on the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) circuit against the same guys, I decided to focus on something that has eluded me – a Canadian rodeo title,” he said.
“Rodeo people around here receive so much respect and I feel this (area) is the heart of cowboy country. It’s a dream to be able to make a living on what I do and just want to join all the great champs that are around here.”
Ponoka’s Brett Buss along with his cousin Klay Whyte from Airdrie are also heading to the CFR as the top-ranked team roping pair after three events this season. Hoping to knock them off though are another pair of locals in Ponoka’s Levi Simpson – and his partner Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, AB. who are ranked 11th – and third ranked Tyrel Flewelling from Ponoka and his partner Roland McFadden of Vulcan. The rest of the contingent includes tie-down roper Dean Edge – who enters the CFR ranked third, barrel racer Aimee Kay and novice bareback rider Tanner Young.
However, the athletes won’t be the only ones putting Ponoka on the map at the CFR.
Miss Ponoka Stampede Ashely Akkermans will be on hand, competing for the Miss Rodeo Canada crown in addition to the Vold family sending up some of the top bulls in the country as part of the CFR stock.
“It’s been absolutely incredible to be immersed in the rodeo and cowboy culture with these athletes on what is the ultimate rodeo adventure,” she said.
“To be able to really get to know them and see how hard they train has been very cool. And after a long list of events – like visits to hospitals, schools, seniors homes, attending dinners – I hope to be coming home with a different crown.”