Hundreds of barrel racers converged in Ponoka for a jackpot last weekend to loosen their racing muscles.
Organizer Lisa Gallais said this is the sixth year of the bash at the Calnash Ag Event Centre. In the open, there were more than 320 barrel racers covering four divisions: 1D, 2D, 3D and 4D as well as a peewee and youth division.
“Over the years, people enjoy the event. Our sponsors are good. Our prizes are good. Payouts are higher than most,” said Gallais of the success of the bash.
To help give a high payout, the organization takes 20 per cent of entries to pay to host it while the rest of the money goes back to the contestants. The top 10 racers in each division gets a pay out. Depending on the numbers of racers, the prize money could be higher.
This is one of the first big jackpots of spring with contestants from Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. An exciting addition this year was an entry by Barb West, most recently known for her work on A&E’s television show Rodeo Girls.
The weekend started with a Friday warm up, then the open on Saturday and then the short go on the Sunday. The top 10 in each division came back for a barrel racing showdown to earn the top prizes such as saddles and blankets.
This year contestants and organizers banded together to pay for the 4D winning saddle. Gallais said they struggled to get enough money to buy the saddle but an innovative idea from one of the organizers, Kim Munrow, was to crowd source the funding. A call was put out to see if people wanted to donate $10 or $15 towards the saddle and it worked. “I don’t know how many girls e-transferred Kim but they came up with $1,600.”
“We put on the saddle that’s being given away in the 4D, ‘Pay it forward,” said Gallais proudly.
“Our sponsors pulled through and backed us up,” she added of the other prizes.
She suggests this dedication shows that contestants believe in the event but also that barrel racers are part of a larger family of competitors.