With years of dedication to the sport of rodeo and to the Ponoka Stampede, Blake Butterfield was awarded the much-deserved 2018 Legendary Achievement Award from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame (CPRHF).
The announcement was made in April and Ponoka News took some time during Ponoka Stampede week to chat with Blake about the award. The best place to find him is at the timed event chutes where cowboys contend with the well-known long score run. Blake is the man behind the scenes ensuring everything goes well in that area.
The legend award is for a Canadian rodeo athlete who hasn’t won a Canadian or world championship but has still had a notable career. “I was in boys steer riding probably when I was eight or nine years old, and as I got older I just started the boys steer wrestling,” said Blake.
From there he competed as a steer wrestler for quite a few years before retiring from the sport in 1987. About six or seven years later he joined the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association.
The Butterfield name is synonymous with rodeo. His father Tom, and uncles, Bud and Brian, were inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, plus the three have much acclaim within the CPRHF.
“We were around it (rodeo) when we were kids,” explained Blake, adding that he got into the sport on his own.
“They (parents) never pushed us. They were there to coach us along but they had been long retired before we started,” said Blake.
In the early 1970s he really started to get competitive. It was a natural transition.
“We worked with horses and cattle every day around home and it just kind of evolved into it,” he said.
Despite retiring from rodeo competition, Blake is by no means, inactive in the rodeo world.
Before and during Ponoka Stampede, Blake is busy. Pens of steers and team roping cattle are drawn from pens of six to ensure steer wrestlers, team ropers and tie down ropers have the best chance they can get at scoring.
Steers have never been used before the morning and afternoon performances, says Blake, and then they’re done for the week until the finals. “And then we’ll go back…and pick the fast times out of each pen and then they draw again for that.”
When looking at the stock for Ponoka Stampede, Blake credits Stampede director Gary Harbin for hand picking the best stock the organization can find. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time they (athletes) all have a chance to win.”
The Stampede has seen such growth and expansion and directors, including Blake, work hard to ensure they are doing the best they possibly can for the organization. “If they (directors) come up with a good idea, they get all the supports.”
“We don’t sit and bicker about little things,” said Blake praising each director’s skill set.
For Blake, what stands out for him is a strong sense of pride for the work that the Stampede Association does and what it brings to the community.