Ty Taypotat holds on in bareback riding at last year’s Benalto Pro Rodeo. This year’s rodeo runs July 3

Ty Taypotat holds on in bareback riding at last year’s Benalto Pro Rodeo. This year’s rodeo runs July 3

Benalto Pro Rodeo organizers gearing up for 98th year

With record crowds in attendance last year, organizers of the Benalto Pro Rodeo are full of optimism heading into this year’s event.

With record crowds in attendance last year, organizers of the Benalto Pro Rodeo are full of optimism heading into this year’s event.

The rodeo, now in its 98th year, will take place July 3, 4 and 5 on Benalto Rodeo Grounds.

Last year saw between 4,000 and 5,000 spectators attend over three days, indicating the rodeo remains very much a popular draw as it nears its centennial year.

“We had record crowds last year on Saturday — it was phenomenal,” said Benalto Agricultural Society president Neal Arksey, adding improvements such as this year’s addition of new beer gardens will help the rodeo flourish. “It’s a great tradition that’s now been going on 98 years, and we’re just trying to make it better for everybody.”

Arksey said the rodeo offers a different experience than that of others such as the Calgary Stampede. Its comparatively intimate setting, he feels, allows for a viewing experience like no other.

“It’s a nice, close rodeo,” he said. “You’re not sitting way back in the stands with a set of binoculars to watch — any seat in the house is a good seat.”

As has been the case in previous years, the rodeo will be accompanied by a variety of other events throughout the weekend, including live music performances, pancake breakfasts, demonstrations and the highly popular Junior Rodeo.

The lattermost, according to Arksey, allows younger competitors to put their skills to the test in an environment that emphasizes fun, with the pony races a particularly popular draw.

“It’s more or less going out there and having some fun,” he said.

The Junior Rodeo kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 3, while the Pro Rodeo begins at 7 p.m. on the same day and wraps up on July 5.

A comprehensive overview of rodeo events is available online at www.benaltoagsociety.ca.