It’s business as usual in Lea Park, Alta., as the 56th annual Lea Park Rodeo gets ready to run June 11-13, with one small exception. Although it’s not something that would easily be recognized by the average spectator, it sure means a heck of a lot to a number of budding rodeo athletes and those intent on building a better future for rodeo.
The Lea Park Rodeo is the second stop in the newly formed Calgary Stampede Novice Tour. The Calgary Stampede has committed to covering entry fees for all competing contestants in the novice saddle bronc, novice bareback and steer riding for six rodeos, and has added prize money to each of those events at all six tour rodeos.
“We’re only one of a few that (The Calgary Stampede) is not the main contractor for where they’re doing it at, and we feel pretty privileged,” says Lloyd Gray, secretary for the Lea Park Rodeo.
“My hat is off to Calgary for doing this. It’s great. This is where our future cowboys are coming from,” he adds. “If these guys all end up being pro cowboys and taking their pro card out, it’s that much better.”
Gray respects the effort that went into making the tour happen. As a committee member, he knows all about hard work.
“Most people don’t have a clue what it takes to put on a rodeo. For example, we’ll start planning for next year’s right after this rodeo, taking into account what went wrong at this one, what went right, what can we change. It’s a meeting a month, and then within three months of rodeo time there’s a meeting every week. And then this whole week has been just rodeo,” he reveals.
“It’s a lot of work. You have so many little details to put together right from portable washrooms to the ambulance to parking. The list just never quits,” he chuckles.
But he’s been at it for 30 years, and “I quite enjoy it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. It’s hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun, and she’s a really good thing for the community.”
The folks over in Rocky Mountain House, Alta. also know a thing or two about community. According to Rocky Pro Rodeo Arena Director Lorrie McMeekin, the committee selects a cause each year to do a fundraiser for.
“The rodeo is a community effort, and it’s something we do to put back into the community,” he explains.
This year, the local women’s shelter is in the spotlight after Saturday’s rodeo performance.
“It is called Walk a Mile in My Shoes and there are going to be a bunch of townspeople and rodeo board members and cowboys walking in high heels. They were talking about barrel racing, but I don’t know how you’re going to run around barrels in high heels in this stuff,” he laughs, referring to rain the county has had over the past two weeks.
Over at Brooks, Alta. where the Kinsmen Pro Rodeo is marking their 50th anniversary on June 11 and 12, the grounds are also a bit muddy, but with a province-wide forecast for sunny weather, Clint Hammel is looking forward to the milestone celebrations.
“Calgary Stampede is coming down and they’re doing some grand entry stuff, and we’ve got a different fireworks show,” the committee member says.
“With the economy being kind of lame, we didn’t want to get too goofy in case we got rain. But overall, it should be great rodeo.”
Brooks will be celebrating at their new grounds, as well, and Hammel is confident that rodeo fans will enjoy them as much as the contestants.
“We’ve got a lot of local competitors around here that came and gave us their input, like to design things,” he says, adding, “So come out and see our new grounds!”
~ Courtesy Canadian Professional Rodeo Association