Luke Butterfield competes in the bareback event during the 2010 Ponoka Stampede. Butterfield will compete in saddle bronc at the Canadian Finals Rodeo this week in Edmonton.

It’s time to shine at Canadian Finals Rodeo

By Dale Cory

“It’s going to be a little nerve racking. You’ve just got to be cool, stay sharp, throw one down — and they’ll pay you.”

Kyle Felker’s words pretty much summed up what every cowboy and cowgirl is thinking in the days leading up to the big event.

There`s the Ponoka Stampede — and there’s the Calgary Stampede.

Then, there`s the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the culmination of the season on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association circuit.

Felker is a 23-year-old steer wrestler who calls Ponoka home.

This week, he will compete in his very first CFR. But Felker won’t be the only one from this area. In fact, no fewer than 11 competitors from the Ponoka area will take part the six CFR performances beginning Wednesday evening.

Following are competitor biographies and comments as they prepare to take part in the Canadian Finals Rodeo at Rexall Place in Edmonton:

Scott Auclair, Ponoka, AB

Event: team roping

Born: Dec. 21, 1968 at Grande Prairie, AB

Year Turned Pro: 1996

CFR Qualifications: (3) BR: 1997; TR: 2009, 2010

2010 Standings: 2nd

2010 Earnings: $13,461

2010 Highlights: Won Kananaskis Indoor Pro Rodeo (Coleman, AB) – 4.3 seconds

Career Highlights: SK Circuit AA Champion, 1996

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 190 lbs

Family: wife, Michelle; children, Coby, Macy, Brock

Auclair (heeler) and Jordan Dodds (header) were one of the top team roping tandems on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association circuit in 2010, finishing in second place in the standings with more than $13,000 in the bank. It was a good finish — but not such a great start to the season.

“Yeah, the beginning of the year was slow-going — but fall was really good to us. Hopefully it carries on through till the middle of November,” says Auclair. “With team roping, we don’t make as much money as other events, so it’s tough to make a living rodeoing without working. I’ve been working full-time — then you put on a lot of miles travelling the circuit. The hardest part is leaving home to travel to every rodeo.”

Auclair and Dodds finished the season less than $600 behind the team roping leaders — Travis Gallais and Tyler Flewelling.

Auclair believes he and his partner mesh well in competition — and outside the rodeo arena.

“There’s something to do with chemistry. I’ve roped with quite a few guys, and only one or two have I gelled with like I have with Jordan. We rope well together and talk about what each other is doing with out having a feud. We’ve been having some good practices in Jordan’s indoor arena,” says Auclair. “I think we’ve got each other figured out. If we can keep our heads on straight, we’ve proven we’re a contender, so, good lord willing, it will work out in the end.”

Luke Butterfield, Ponoka, AB

Events: saddle bronc

Born: Aug. 15, 1984 at Ponoka, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2005

CFR Qualifications: (4) 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010

2010 Standings: 3rd

2010 Earnings: $24,518

2010 Highlights: Won the Grande Prairie Stampede – 89.0 points (Arena Record)

Career Highlights: Canadian NSB Champion 2004; Canadian Intercollegiate SB Champion 2005

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 155 lbs

Family: single

“This was probably one of my best years rodeoing. I had a cold August, which cost me — but I rode my butt off hard to make the NFR,” says Butterfield. “There’s no complaints. I had a great year.”

A third-place finish, and nearly $25,000 in winnings in the CPRA have Butterfield feeling confident heading into the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“At the CFR, it’s pretty much the hottest guys all year competing. We pick our horses, and they’re the best horses in Canada. You’ve just got to match up with the best horse,” says Butterfield, who will take part in his fourth CFR, giving him previous knowledge of what life will be like once the competition begins. “When it’s business time, you try to get in the zone. Everything else phases out. I just think to spur that horse out, start everything right, and try not to think of what to do. In the bareback event, so much is muscle memory. You can’t lift off too much or it will be too late. I just try to stay square and land on my feet.”

Casey Crandall, Ponoka, AB

Events: ladies barrel racing

Born: July 24 at Ponoka, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2010

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 9th

2010 Earnings: $17,598

2010 Highlights: Co-Champion at the Teepee Creek Stampede – 16.28 seconds; won the Jasper Heritage Rodeo – 13.35 seconds, won the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo (Merritt, BC) – 16.89 seconds, won the Hanna Indoor Pro Rodeo – 12.93 seconds

Height: 5’4”

Family: single

Four victories during the CPRA season will usually get a competitor to the Canadian Finals Rodeo, and that’s where Crandall is heading this week. She says the season got off to a slow start — but took off halfway through the summer, resulting in a ninth-place finish during her rookie year on the tour.

“Things really started to click. It seemed like everything, including my horse, was working well,” said Crandall, who will make her first trip to the CFR. “It’s a dream come true, and a little bit unbelievable. But, as it gets closer, I realize it is happening, and I’m pretty excited. I’ve got lots of family coming up, and lots of support, I’ve had lots of people pulling for me through the year. It’s something you work so hard for and it’s finally here.”

Every competitor at the Canadian Finals Rodeo will have to deal with plenty of distractions. Crandall will work hard to push everything else to the back of her mind.

“I just focus on what I need to do in the moment, and let everything else go,” says Crandall. “I will just focus on my horse and making the run. I can’t think about whether it’s a big rodeo or small rodeo. It’s about doing my job at that moment.”

Jordan Dodds, Ponoka, AB

Events: team roping

Born: Aug. 7, 1984 at Ponoka, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2006

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 2nd

2010 Earnings: $13,461

2010 Highlights: Won Kananaskis Indoor Pro Rodeo (Coleman, AB) – 4.3 seconds

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 180 lbs

Team ropers Jordan Dodds and Scott Auclair had one of the fastest times of the year when they won the Kananaskis Indoor Pro Rodeo in Coleman with a time of 4.3 seconds.

“We drew the best steer in the pen, and everything clicked that day. Yeah, we had a great year,” said Dodds, sponsored by Tim Pugh Farrier. “I had a great guy behind me. I’m just happy to have the chance to go to Edmonton. Hopefully it’s just another rodeo. There will be lots of people, but it should be a lot of fun, and we’ll do the best we can.”

Dean Edge, Rimbey, AB

Event: tie down roping

Born: Oct. 28, 1979 at Rimbey, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2004

CFR Qualifications: (6) 2004, 2006-10

2010 Standings: 14th 

2010 Earnings: $12,871

2010 Highlights: Won the New Holland Saskatoon Stampede Pro Rodeo – 8.2 seconds

Career Highlights: Owner of TD Horse of the Year (Sid) 2005-08

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 180 lbs

Family: wife, Jeanine; child, Erin

He’s travelled all across Canada, and through the Untied States.

He’s put thousands of miles on his truck — and probably his horse as well — and has the bumps and bruises to show for his hard work.

This week, Dean Edge of Rimbey, who competes in the tie-down roping event, will be looking for the payoff — a big payday.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s what we go all year for is to get there. It’s definitely rewarding just to get to go. I’m excited to get up there and do well,” said Edge, 6’1”, 180 pounds. “I get excited for other rodeos during the year, like Calgary and Ponoka, but the excitement level goes up a notch for the finals. The crowd is louder in Edmonton, and everybody is on your side — and they’re paying attention to the rodeo. It’s neat to be in the spotlight.”

Edge finished 14th in the money standings during the CPRA season, but he believes he can move up the leader board at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“Yeah, expectations get a little higher, so you just try to stay level headed,” he said. “I just try to make the best run I can every night. I’ve learned you can’t force anything, it just happens.”

Edge, 31, turned pro in 2004. The highlight of his 2010 season came in Saskatchewan, where he won the New Holland Saskatoon Stampede Pro Rodeo with a fast time of 8.2 seconds.

Edge, as every decent cowboy would do, gives credit to his ride — four-time horse of the year, Sid.

“Having a horse stay consistent is the key — and he’s been a good horse,” says Edge. “There will be pens of strong calves in Edmonton, so I’m happy to have a horse that can showcase its skills.”

And Edge can’t wait to showcase his skills in front of family and friends at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“Everyday I run into somebody who says ‘We’re coming up to Edmonton to watch you.’ It’s pretty neat.”

Kenton Fawcett, Ponoka, AB

Event: team roping 

Born: April 5, 1981 at Vanderhoof, BC

Year Turned Pro: 2010

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 6th

2010 Earnings: $11,333

2010 Highlights: Won the Moose Mountain Pro Rodeo (Kennedy, SK) – 5.5 seconds

Career Highlights: BCRA TR Champion 2006

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 175 lbs

Family: single

“This was my first year going to the pro rodeos. About three-quarters of them I hadn’t been to before, so it was a great learning experience. I got a lot of help from some of the veterans I look up to, which helped a lot, whether it was on entering the set-ups at the rodeos, or the mental side of roping,” says Fawcett, who knows any team can win on any given weekend. “At every rodeo there are 30 teams that can beat you at any time, so you have to be sharp and come with it every time, or you’ll get it handed to you.

When Fawcett found out in September he had qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo, he says it was a huge relief. Now, he can concentrate on the competition itself.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time. The time and sacrifice a person puts into this sport makes this week all that more rewarding,” says Fawcett. “Since I haven’t been to the finals before, I really don’t know what to expect. A person is just going to have to rope fast and make good, consistent runs and see what happens come Sunday. Making it was the tough part. The pressure is off, so I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.”

Kyle Felker, Sceptre, SK

Event: steer wrestling

Born: Jan. 31, 1987 at High River, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2009

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 10th

2010 Earnings: $14,294

2010 Highlights: Won the New Holland Saskatoon Stampede Pro Rodeo – 4.2 seconds; Won the Stavely Indoor Pro Rodeo – 3.5 seconds

Career Highlights: 2008 Wildrose Rodeo Association (WRA) SW Champion

Height: 5’11” 

Weight: 210 lbs

Family: single

“The season went real well. It was my second year rodeoing, and I thought I did pretty good. I learned a lot, and am thankful for the opportunity to go to Edmonton and compete for some big money,” says Felker, understanding he will perform in front of many more people than at a normal weekend rodeo. “Yeah, it’s going to be a little nerve racking. You’ve got to be cool, stay sharp, throw one down and they’ll pay you. I’m just going to try to stay aggressive, and do what I did all year. I’ve got family and friends coming up, and I’m looking forward to showing them how far I’ve come along in my bulldoggin’ career.”

Tyrel Flewelling, Lacombe, AB

Event: team roping

Born: Sept.16, 1986 at Lacombe, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2009

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 1st

2010 Earnings: $13,994

2010 Highlights: Won the Stavely Indoor Pro Rodeo – 5.4 seconds

Career Highlights: National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) Champion Heeler; National Intercolegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) Reserve Champion Heeler

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 180 lbs

Tyrel Flewelling finished the season in first place in the team roping standings. His plan is to still be in first place come Sunday afternoon.

“I hope to be. I’ll be up against the top 12 guys in Canada, if a guy goes up there and ropes sharp, that’s all you can ask for,” says Flewelling, who finished the season with just under $14,000 in earnings. “It was a really good year, considering it was my first year going. We were really consistent all year, caught a lot of our steers, placed a lot, and ended up as season leaders.”

Flewelling teamed with Travis Gallais — a smart move considering Gallais is a three-time Canadian champion.

“He’s a great header, and the reigning Canadian champion,” says Flewelling. “He turns lots of steers for me and gives me a great opportunity to catch them. We’ve practiced quite a bit lately. The magnitude will be way different in Edmonton. Travis told me, ‘We just have to do what we do and let it all work out.’”

Trygve Pugh, Ponoka

Event: steer wrestling

Born: July 24, 1981 at Red Deer, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2000

CFR Qualifications: (4) 2001-02, 2007, 2010

2010 Standings: 6th

2010 Earnings: $16,624

2010 Highlights: Won the Brooks Kinsmen Rodeo – 3.8 seconds; Won the Taber Pro Rodeo – 3.7 seconds; co-champion at the Moose Mountain Pro Rodeo (Kennedy, SK) – 4.2 seconds

Career Highlights: CPRA Rookie of the Year 2000; BC Circuit SW Champion 2002

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 270 lbs

Family: wife, Jolynn; daughter, Keely

“My season was all right,” says Trygve Pugh of his sixth-place finish in the steer wrestling standings. “Things slowed down near the end of the season. I was hopeful to win more tour finals, but that didn’t work out.”

Still, it was a good season for Pugh, who can certainly be considered a CFR veteran, considering it’s his fourth trip to the Edmonton event. However…

“It’s still the same. Being it’s my fourth finals, maybe there’s a little less pressure. There are six go-rounds, and you’re competing against the best. Maybe I was safe when I first went, but you have to go for first every night if you’re going to win some money,” says the Ponoka cowboy, understanding it will take a huge week to overcome Curtis Cassidy’s money lead of more than $32,000.

“Curtis has a pretty good lead, so he’ll have to mess up real bad, and a guy has to do real good. You just have to go up there and throw six down and see where you end up.”

Jake Vold, Ponoka, AB

Event: bareback

Born: March 12, 1987 at Red Deer, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2010

CFR Qualifications: (2) 2007, 2010

2010 Standings: 12th

2010 Earnings: $12,710

Career Highlights: CPRA NBB Champion 2007; Prairie Circuit BB Champion 2010

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 160 lbs

Family: single

Competing in the bareback event can be tough, something Jake Vold has found out first-hand in recent years. He has suffered a broken collarbone, and he broke his arm twice in 10 months, forcing surgery — and a 13-month break from competition. When he got back into the swing of competition in June, he rode to 12th place in the standings with more than $12,000 in his pocket.

“The season went pretty good considering I didn’t start till June 1st. I was happy to pick away, to get back into it and make the finals,” says Vold, who admits to being a little apprehensive when he entered the arena for the first time this summer. “Yeah, I was a little nervous off the start to see how things go. I knew it would take a bit to get back into the swing of things. I was still pretty excited to be riding again — there was more joy than fear I guess.”

Vold will make his second appearance at the Canadian Finals Rodeo and believes he is prepared for what lies ahead.

“I guess I know what to expect. I like riding in front of big crowds. It gets your motor running. It’s a great feeling to be in front of a lot of people,” says Vold. “We get to pick our horses, and we find out the night before what horse we get, so we get a night to think about it.”

Klay Whyte, Bashaw, AB

Event: team roping

Born: Feb. 2, 1988 at Ponoka, AB

Year Turned Pro: 2008

CFR Qualifications: (1) 2010

2010 Standings: 3rd

2010 Earnings: $12,998

2010 Highlights: Won the New Holland Saskatoon Stampede Pro Rodeo – 5.2 seconds; Won the Rocky Pro Rodeo (Rocky Mtn House, AB) – 5.7 seconds

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 160 lbs

Family: single

“It was a really good season. I didn’t have a good start, but around the Ponoka Stampede, it started going our way, and we kept it going after that. Getting in front of a home crowd didn’t hurt. It got our confidence going, so I was extremely happy,” says Whyte, happy to be competing in front of family and friends. “I’m pretty excited, and can’t wait to get up there and do some good. I think to it will be nerve-racking at first, but we’ll do the best we can, and go out and win some money.”

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