Affectionately known as Christmastime, it’s peak rodeo season, running now through the Fourth of July weekend in the United States. There are more than 30 rodeos scheduled on both sides of the border during the holiday week alone, and there’s a tremendous amount of money to be won. The next few weeks could in fact make or break a competitor’s chances to reach their goals of making it to the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Edmonton or the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
This week there are three rodeos in Canada that are also a part of the Wrangler Canadian Professional Rodeo Tour.
First, to get things rolling is the Ponoka Stampede, one of Canada’s biggest with more than $500,000 in prize money. It is a perennial favourite of contestants from both sides of the border.
“The Ponoka Stampede is a cowboy’s rodeo. It’s built on tradition. It’s old, it’s wild, it’s western, and it’s where the history of western Canada and the western United States all becomes reality right here for a whole week,” says an enthusiastic Gary Harbin, a director on the Ponoka Stampede committee, and past-president.
In all, Harbin has been on the board for over 40 years, and he looks forward to the event every year.
“At Ponoka, you can be right on top of the action. You can drive within a hundred yards of the arena, you can park for free, and you get to see world-class stock, and you get to see world champion cowboys compete,” he says.
The five-day Airdrie Pro Rodeo started June 29 and presents another opportunity for sports fans to catch some incredible rodeo action.
“I’m looking forward to some high-point rides and some fast times in the timed events,” says Rob Brietzke, president of the Airdrie Rodeo Ranch Association. “We’re just looking for lots of fun and hoping everybody that comes out has a good time, from the contestants right through to the spectators.”
Brietzke has volunteered with the association for the last 11 years, spending the most recent four as president.
“I think we’re a friendly bunch of people, there’s not a bad seat in the round here for viewing, and we’ve got all the top contestants. What more could you ask for than to see your favourite rodeo heroes?”
The cowboys and cowgirls will also make their way over to British Columbia where the Williams Lake Stampede is celebrating their 84th anniversary this year. Four days of rodeo action get under way on July 1. With more than $150,000 in prize money, the Stampede offers contestants another opportunity to add to their season earnings and earn Tour points at the height of the Canadian rodeo season.