By Kevin J. Sabo
For Ponoka News
Ponoka’s Calnash Ag Event Centre is gearing up for rodeo action in September.
Running for its fifth-consecutive year, the Samson Cree Nation Indian National Finals Rodeo Qualifier is set to kick off Sept. 24 and run until Sept. 26.
“It’s a big rodeo,” said Shelli Yellowbird, the marketing coordinator for the rodeo.
“It’s touted as one of the last and best to get qualified. Everyone is trying to qualify (for the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas). It’s a big deal.”
The winner of the Samson Cree Nation Rodeo automatically qualifies for the finals in Las Vegas, which take place the third week of October.
The rodeo will feature all the major rodeo events, including bareback riding, saddle-bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, and all the usual timed events. In addition to the main events, the rodeo is also planning three junior events, and a seniors’ team roping event.
“It’s kind of exciting,” said Yellowbird. “It covers each age group in the rodeo family. It’s actually well thought out because rodeo is a family event.”
Rodeo action will begin with a slack performance starting at noon on Sept. 24. If necessary, an additional performance will be added at 6 p.m. that evening.
Action will resume on both Sept. 25 and 26 with performances beginning at 1 p.m. and lasting from three to three-and-a-half hours.
In addition to the rodeo performances, other entertainment is being slotted in over the three days.
“There is entertainment designated each day,” said Yellowbird.
To commemorate the 215 residential school graves located in Kamloops, competitors will have the option of either wearing orange, or wearing an orange cloth on either their clothing or attached to their saddle. The cloths will be marked with “Every Child Matters.”
While competitors are limited to Indian National Rodeo or affiliated rodeo association members, the rodeo is open to spectators. Cost for admission is $15 per person with ages five and under being free. Calnash Ag Event Centre will be operating their concession throughout the weekend.
To further honour the 215 residential school graves which were recently located, the Samson Cree Nation is preparing a “very, very special” grand entry for the rodeo.
“I’m really excited about the honouring of the 215 residential children,” said Yellowbird.
“We’re utilizing youth, period, to tell that five-minute story. I want to encourage anyone if they want, to attend. It’s a really important message.”