It’s quite likely no other place in the world has sent a larger group to a rodeo.
A total of 12 competitors from the Ponoka area, or connected to it, will be competing at the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) that begins this week in Edmonton.
Eleven of them, along with 2016 Ponoka Stampede Queen Jadey van der Vlis, were at the Calnash Ag Events Centre on Nov. 2 for the CFR Sendoff event put on by the Ponoka Stampede.
Those competing include: Brett Buss, Klay Whyte, Levi Simpson, Travis Gallais in team roping, Tanner Young in novice bareback, Luke Butterfield in saddle bronc, Brock Butterfield in steer wrestling, Dean Edge in tie down roping, Jake Vold in bareback and Zane Lambert, Tyler Pankewitz and Wacey Finkbeiner in bull riding.
Ponoka Stampede president Blair Vold was certainly impressed with the group, stating, “I’ve never seen in our history so many from here off to the finals. It’s certainly a testament to the community and to our rodeo. It’s really tremendous.”
Each one of the competitors and van der Vlis received a denim jacket from the Ponoka Stampede in recognition of their accomplishment so far with Edge stepping up to the microphone afterwards to thank the Stampede and the entire community for all of its support shown to all of the rodeo competitors from the area.
For van der Vlis, the week will be just like much of her 2016 schedule — very busy. She will be taking part in several appearances across Edmonton as part of the Miss Rodeo Canada competition, that includes five components like public speaking and a written test.
“I’m so thankful to everyone for all of the support and help they have provided to me so far,” she said.
“I’m pretty excited and the whole week is going to be busy and is pretty surreal even still. I couldn’t have asked for more and it’s a big honour to represent the Ponoka Stampede.”
For Brock Butterfield, heading to the CFR again is the culmination of a great season that included winning the buckle in his hometown rodeo.
“Got off to a good start this season and winning here in Ponoka was pretty special, especially with a lot of family and friends watching,” he stated.
“Making the CFR is always tough, but I had lots of good luck along the way.”
There is one first-timer in the group, bull rider Wacey Finkbeiner, who is making the trip after his best season ever as a pro.
“It’s great to see all of the hard work I put in pay off and by the end of July, I was fairly confident that I would have a spot in the finals,” he said.
Finkbeiner also has the support of two other competitors in Lambert and Pankewitz, who have all travelled together to rodeo much of the season.
“Yeah, we kind of had a team deal going on since we are all from the area and have travelled together,” he stated.
“That has made it a bit easier having just been a pro for two years. I was a good amateur, but the transition to pro has been tough and they both helped my learn to stay focused.”
The CFR kicks off today, Nov. 9, with performances through till Nov. 13. The crowning of Miss Rodeo Canada will take place on Nov. 12.