For the past 30 years, cowboys and cowgirls have travelled from across Canada and the United States to partake in the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo. Thousands of locals and tourists have gathered in the stands at the Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds to watch as athletes compete in barrel racing, tie-down roping, bull riding, and many other fast paced events.
Ten kilometres north of Cranbrook on Highway 95A, the Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds has been home to the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo since the beginning. The rodeo originally started as a fundraiser to keep the grounds going.
“There were all of these groups, most of them horse related, that all came together and formed the Wycliffe Exhibition Association,” says Dallas Mackie, Chair of the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo.
Among these groups were 4-H clubs, the Farmer’s Institute, the Rocky Mountain Riders, the Mavericks, and a few others. Each group put on their own events and clinics.
The one event that has lasted throughout the years has been the rodeo. The Wycliffe Exhibition Association was formed to set up the grounds.
Times have changed, and the Wycliffe Exhibition Association no longer runs the grounds. They are now under jurisdiction of the Regional District of the East Kootenay, but the Association still plays an active role in the rodeo, which they produce.
In spite of change, the rodeo community still holds onto its traditional values. “It’s a heritage sport,” says Mackie, “some of us were raised in rodeo and some of us weren’t but we all like it and the values that it embodies.”
Cheryl Olsen, Vice President of the Wycliffe Exhibition Association, says that those values are, “hard and good work ethic, not giving up on things. A lot time you see those things missing in today’s society.”
The two agree that the work ethic and dedication of the cowboys and cowgirls speaks to the community values that they believe are engrained in rodeo culture.
Competitors are not the only ones with admirable work ethic. Since the beginning, the rodeo has been supported by a dedicated group of volunteers. The event, which is run entirely by volunteers, takes months of planning and hard work to pull off. Committees start planning one rodeo almost immediately after the last one ends.
“We all know what are jobs are, we do them and we do them well. It all seems to run pretty efficiently,” says Olsen.
Over the span of three days, the grounds are visited by over 2000 spectators and close to 300 competitors. Most of the people who come to the rodeo, spectators and competitors, are not local to the region. There are a large number of tourists that take in the event, and seldom do locals compete in the events.
This year, Bobbie Goodwin, a local barrel racer, will compete. No doubt she will have all of the organizers cheering her on.
A few hundred competitors may seem like a lot but according to Mackie the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo is actually small in size when compared to other rodeos. The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) is the founding professional association in Canada. The Cranbrook Pro Rodeo must pay approval fees and follow CPRA guidelines and rules in order to be classified as a pro rodeo.
In order for cowboys and cowgirls to compete in a CPRA recognized rodeo they must be registered. Each athlete competes and tries to collect top scores throughout the season. At the end of the year, those who are in the top 12 spots compete in the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton.
Even though Cranbrook Pro Rodeo is a small event it has the potential to impact competitor’s final standings for the year. Those who are participating in the rodeo are extremely skilled in their events and captivating to watch.
The events included at this year’s rodeo are saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, ladies barrel racing, bull riding, and team roping.
“The rodeo itself will take two hours. It’s a fast paced entertainment. If people have watched the Calgary stampede, which most have, it’s very much like that but in much smaller way,” explains Mackie.
The events are held over a three-day span the third week of every August. On Friday and Saturday, the events are held in the evenings so more people are able to come and enjoy all the rodeo has to offer. On Sunday, events are held in the afternoon. Along with the rodeo events there are trick riders, a dance on Saturday, and a beer garden that runs for the duration of the weekend.
“It’s a family and community oriented event, and there’s something for everyone. That’s part of our goal,” says Olsen.
“We like rodeo and we hope to make enough money to put it on the next year. That’s our basic goal. Come out of it financially viable and we’ve been doing it a long time and it’s worked so far. We’re really grateful to sponsors and volunteers,” adds Mackie.
Those who are looking to attend a fast-paced and community oriented event this weekend can pick up their tickets for the rodeo at Wycliffe Exhibition Grounds upon entry.