For the first time in 15 years the professional rodeo circuit will not have a stop in High River.
The High River Agricultural Society has dropped its affiliation with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) and instead will be affiliated with the Foothills Cowboy Association (FCA) for the annual Guy Weadick Days Rodeo in late June.
Ag society president Wade Nelson said the decision was made because it’s expensive to run pro rodeos and they want to give the rodeo more of a local flavour by having more entries from the foothills area.
“We wanted to do more local stuff and the FCA is a local organization right out of High River,” Nelson said. “That was the main reason, but the pro rodeo (CPRA) is more expensive.”
Angie MacDonald, co-chairperson of the High River rodeo said the High River Ag Society can save between $15,000 and $25,000 by switching to the FCA.
She could not break down the exact cost of the rodeo last year.
Nelson added the society has a responsibility to promote rodeo and agriculture locally.
“With the FCA we can have more local entries — guys that live and reside in the High River area,” he said.
Millarville pro cowboy Sam Kelts cut his teeth on amateur circuits like the FCA, however, the bronc rider said he is disappointed there won’t be a stop in High River for the pro circuit.
“It always sucks to leave a bigger rodeo like that, there was a lot of money added and it was a decent rodeo,” Kelts said from Scottsdale, AZ. “For me personally, it was close to home.”
He said the loss of the rodeo seems to be a bit of a trend in Canada.
“It seems like we are losing rodeos faster than gaining them,” said Kelts, who was the fourth best bronc rider in Canada last year. “It’s a hit to the association (CPRA) and it’s one less chance to make some money.”
He said the only positive thing is it may free up some time for rodeo athletes who are always juggling to get to pro rodeos in Wainwright, Sundre and Reno on the same weekend High River was held.
“I’d much rather have one more rodeo to go to though,” Kelts said.
FCA president Dave Clarke of Millarville said the High River Rodeo will immediately become one of the association’s feature stops.
“It will probably be our biggest rodeo,” Clarke said. “There will be a tremendous amount of local entries and I think it is really good for rodeo in this area.”
Clarke said he anticipates the High River rodeo will have one of the biggest payouts for FCA cowboys and cowgirls.
“It gives us more exposure in what is a popular area for rodeo,” Clarke said. “This will inject interest into the FCA and promotes the FCA in southern Alberta.”
At present, there are about 550 members in the FCA and Clarke is hoping to bump that number to more than 600 this year. He said the FCA, and other amateur circuits like the Wildrose and Chinook, are proving ground for CPRA athletes to learn the ropes of rodeo.
Kynan Vine of the CPRA said he hopes the High River rodeo will return to the pro circuit in the future.
“We are disappointed to see them go in another direction and we hope we can work with them again,” Vine said.
He would not comment on the exact expense to the High River Ag Society for offering a CPRA rodeo last season, however, he did say there would be added expense as compared to amateur rodeo circuits.
“Each rodeo will pay the (CPRA) association an administration fee,” Vine said. “That would we take for entries, setting up the draws, paying the money… We have a large staff at the CPRA that takes care of many things along with promoting the rodeos… It is more of an expense to be a pro rodeo but we feel we deliver a lot of value for being with our association.”
He dismissed the thought there is a trend the CPRA is losing rodeos, stating some rodeos and bull riding events have been added this season.
He added High River rodeo fans will be missing out on the best cowboys and cowgirls in the business by the dropping the CPRA.
Vine said 56 per cent of the High River rodeo competitors in 2012 had been Canadian or National (US) final qualifiers in the past.
“That’s a lot of good quality competitors,” Vine said.
MacDonald said there are still some issues to be dealt with.
She said she expects the rodeo will likely run longer than the CPRA due to the larger number of entries. She said the timing is important so as not to interfere with the popular Guy Weadick Chuckwagon Championships June 20-23. MacDonald said the rodeo would likely run June 21-23 prior to the chuckwagon races.
With High River dropping the CPRA rodeo there are now two pro rodeos in the foothills area for 2013. They are the Stavely Indoor Rodeo May 9-11 and the Okotoks Pro Rodeo during the Labour Day weekend.
High River chucks
There won’t be a dash for cash at this year Guy Weadick Chuckwagon Championships in High River.
The format will once again be a four-day timed aggregate to determine the champion.
Last year, the races were held over two weekends, allowing for all the drivers to take a turn at each barrel position. The top four aggregate drivers over those four days then met in a Dash for Cash final.
However, this year the Guy Weadick races will run only one weekend, from June 20-23 due to Saskatoon being added to the World Professional Chuckwagon Association circuit.
The champion in High River last year was Kelly Sutherland.