In a week that is all about the rodeo in Ponoka, there was another small ceremony held to show off some of the sport’s historical records.
On June 26, the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame (CPRHF) — located in the Calnash Ag Event Centre — held an unveiling of the unique displays of all of the 2017 inductees. The displays include various personal items from the careers of the competitors and others while sculptures and photos of any rodeo stock are set in those displays.
For Rayle Little, who was inducted as a contestant, the four-time Canadian barrel racing champion and three time Ponoka Stampede champ is still struck about receiving such a prestigious honour.
“Having spent much of the last 30 years driving down the road to rodeos and all you’re focused on is trying to win, you don’t think about this kind of stuff at the end of your career,” Little stated, whose maiden name is Robinson and is originally from Alix.
“It’s very nice to have been honoured and have them say I’m now part of the rest of the people who have been inducted. As well, they’ve done a beautiful job in creating these displays and having all of this to show of all of the history of rodeo.”
Little, who lives near Thorsby with her husband Grant, has slowed down her barrel racing career considerably in the past decade, instead focuses much of her time and efforts on the couple’s business — training, breeding and selling barrel racing horses.
A few displays over is the one for the 2017 Ranchman’s Legendary Achievement Award recipient Lester Gurnett, whose career spanned several decades as a competitor, judge and rodeo executive.
Gurnett started off in rodeo riding broncs and bulls before working the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association (CPRA) circuits as a judge, including many times at the Canadian Finals Rodeo. Later, he would get involved in the operational side of the CPRA, serving as vice-president and president.
“It’s a real honour to be put in to start with. I was president for several years when the Hall first moved to Ponoka, so I know what it took to get here,” he said.
“Now, it’s kind of the icing on the cake and it’s the last thing that I will ever accomplish in the rodeo world. It’s a comforting feeling and I’m in here with my buddies.”
While there are far too many of Gurnett’s friends, fellow competitors and those he looked up to as superstars when he was growing up, he noted this great honour is something that can’t be taken away.
Also having their displays revealed was Bashaw’s Billy Laye — who won both the Calgary Stampede and a Canadian title in the bareback in 1991 as well as setting a National Finals Rodeo record score of 90 in 1995, Mayerthorpe saddle bronc legend and three time Canadian champion Denny Hay, rodeo builder Bill Pimm and Vold Rodeo’s bull Little Six that was the Canadian bull of the year in 1977.