The 1D buckle from last year’s 2021 ABRA Finals. (Photo submitted)

The 1D buckle from last year’s 2021 ABRA Finals. (Photo submitted)

ABRA Finals expected to be bigger and better than ever

The event will see the return of the popular trade show and Sunday showdown short go

The Alberta Barrel Racing Association (ABRA) Finals are back with a bang this month.

For the first time since 2020, the finals are returning to a regular, post-pandemic format.

The event will take place at the Calnash Ag Event Centre in Ponoka from Aug. 22 to 28.

Last year, despite the finals being able to take place, COVID-19 regulations meant the 800-plus competitors could not be on site for the entire six days of the event. To combat this, ABRA split competitors into rider groups who competed for two days each, allowing the event to go ahead.

“This year, we’re back to running normal; however, because our association has grown so much, we’re starting running a day earlier than we used to,” said Tamera Campanelli, ABRA public relations.

As of Aug. 11, there were 1199 individuals expected to compete: 849 in the open event, 259 in the youth event and 91 in the peewee event.

ABRA is expecting competitors from Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan.

Another major change compared to last year is the addition of a Sunday showdown short go.

“Last year, all of our competitors were like, ‘Oh, we wish we could have a short go.’ We just couldn’t figure out a way to do it last year with the numbers and people coming,” Campanelli said.

The popular trade show is also returning this year.

Local businesses, many of which have sponsored the event, will be featured at the sold-out show. Guests can expect to find everything from saddles to clothing, even Bitcoin.

The trade show will run Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m during the event.

You can find a complete list of events and the schedule for each day at www.albertabarrelracing.ca.

Competitors can also expect a “wide range” of cash and prizes available to be won, according to Campanelli.

Last year, the event saw $25,000 worth of cash prizes in the open event and $10,000 for the youth.

For those looking to watch the finals, Campanelli suggests attending the peewee events. She also promises the youth event is “super electric and super fun to watch.”

“Everybody really gets into it and cheering on the kids,” she said.

“Come on out. Enjoy our trade show. There will be vendors everywhere and opportunities to watch some wonderful barrel racing.”

The peewee event takes place Tuesday (Aug. 23) and Saturday (Aug. 27) around 5 p.m.