Warm weather and high-risk arena action encouraged people to attend the 95th annual Benalto Fair and Stampede on the weekend. While official attendance numbers are not yet available, Benalto Agricultural Society president Neal Arksey called the numbers and profits at the gate “phenomenal”.
“I think it just brings all the community together,” said society treasurer Karen Turner-Padley. “I think it’s just a great time, it’s an old fashioned weekend. There’s baking and crafts from homestead days.”
Arksey said while the events remained the same, there were more vendors to accommodate the number of people, in addition to more sponsors.
Rodeo stock this year came from Big Country Rodeo, Bar C5 Rodeo Stock, and Pollitt Productions, in a switch the society made to save money.
“They performed well for us, they’ve got some great bucking stock,” said Arksey.
No cowboys were injured, but there was an ambulance, emergency medical workers, and a veterinarian present at all times should their services have been needed.
Levi Harbin, a cowboy from Peers competed in the saddle bronc event. In his 10 years of experience, he has had numerous injuries, including several broken bones. He said the anticipation more than anything else makes him feel nervous at times when competing.
All participants in the Benalto rodeo compete in a professional rodeo circuit during the summer. They have to qualify for “professional” status with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA). Many will continue on to the Calgary Stampede, said Turner-Padley.
The Benalto rodeo has had professional status since the 1940s, she added. To maintain that, it has to comply with the rules and regulations of the CPRA.
Arksey said that planning for the rodeo began last October.
“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t realize,” he said. “There’s a big volunteer base that really makes this happen. Without them we’d be pretty short-handed.”
Benalto Agricultural Society is a non-profit organization. Funds raised from ticket sales go towards rodeo expenses and certain youth groups in the community, including 4-H clubs, Pony Clubs, and Benalto School. Rodeo costs are also funded by sponsors.