There is perhaps no better place to send off Ponoka’s cowboys to the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Red Deer than at the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Housed at the Calnash Ag Event Centre, the send-off was hosted by the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association Oct. 24 to celebrate the accomplishments of Ponoka and area cowboys and cowgirls who are this week vying for the championship in Red Deer.
Among the list of athletes are bareback riders Jake Vold, originally from Ponoka but now living in Airdie and Bashaw’s Jacob Stemo. On the bull rider end of events, Jordan Hansen, Zane Lambert and Wacey Finkbeiner all made the top 12 qualifiers while Craig Weisgerber will compete in steer wrestling.
Barrel racers include Ponoka’s Shayna Weir and Lacombe’s Justine Elliot while in the team roping event, headers Levi Simpson and Brett Buss, and heeler Tyrel Flewelling of Lacombe.
Contestants new to the CFR this year are both the barrel racers with Elliot being the youngest at just 16 years old and Weir sitting in third place overall. Stemo, who set a goal to make it to the CFR this year, faces his first as well.
As for the other athletes, the only thing different about the CFR for them is the location with this being the inaugural year of the CFR in Red Deer.
Ponoka Stampede vice-president Bruce Harbin is excited to see so many athletes from the area. “We’re all proud of you going in to Red Deer and wish you the best of luck.”
He added that the athletes are part of a greater Ponoka and area family.
Speaking to the athletes and what it means to compete at the CFR was Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin, who said they are part of a rural Alberta experience that is hard to find these days.
“Keep doing what you’re doing and please be safe,” said McLauchlin.
Deputy Ponoka mayor Teri Underhill added her excitement for the athletes. “Our western roots run deep in Ponoka and nowhere is that more evident than when you look around this room,” said Underhill to attendees.
“It is great facilities like this and the world famous Ponoka Stampede that supports Ponoka in consistently being a top producer of the most talented and skilled cowboys and cowgirls and rodeo producers,” said Underhill.
Miss Ponoka Stampede Alicia Erickson is also competing for the Miss Rodeo Canada title, which will be announced Nov. 2.
The CFR kicked off Oct. 30 and runs until Nov. 4 at Red Deer’s Westerner Park.