It is the joy of small town rodeos when new champions get the taste of victory.
They travel across the Western United States and Canada looking for a little bit of cash and a big thrill, all for the love of the sport.
That was once again the pursuit renewed at the 57th annual Innisfail Pro Rodeo, where from June 16-18 cowboys and cowgirls have made their annual pilgrimage for half a century.
Once such cowboy, Garrett Smith, all the way up from Rexburg, Idaho, made the meager 1,136 kilometre journey for the chance at cashing in.
He did just that on Sunday, pushing into a three-way tie in bull riding with an 85.5-point ride on Sweet Like Sugar. He split the prize money with Tyler Pankewitz and Travis Warburton. The 27-year-old was 26th in the Canadian Pro Rodeo bull riding points standings before Sunday.
“We love coming up here and is just a bunch of fun rodeo up here. Everybody is so laid back and just hanging out. I love it up here,” Smith said. “It was just kind of a good one to get back in the groove of things, now we’re ready to go for next week.”
Smith has a full docket of rodeos on the agenda with Wainright, Sundre, High River and Ponoka next weekend on the eve of what they call “Cowboy Christmas.” That’s the two weeks in July leading up to the world’s largest rodeo, the Calgary Stampede starting on July 7. In those weeks cowboys and cowgirls have a chance at big money almost every day.
Smith will put his talents on display there for the first time this year in Calgary and hopes he’ll have another good day when the time comes.
“Now it kind of starts where we’re doing one-a-day,” he said.
“This will be the first year I get to go to Stampede. I’m pretty excited, my older brother went in steer wrestling a couple years ago. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how it’s one of the best rodeos in the world, pretty excited.”
On the other side of the coin, defending world champion Zeke Thurston showed the field and spectators in Innisfail why he’s in the hunt for another buckle in Calgary next month. Thurston won the Saddle Bronc with an 82.5-point ride on Shoshone Mountain and collected just over $1,000.
“It’s 45 minutes from my house, pretty nice to come out to a rodeo of this calibre and get on the broncs. Couldn’t ask for a better rodeo,” he said.
Thurston bounced back after breaking a saddle in Rocky Mountain House last weekend to win in Innisfail.
“I just jumped in that saddle, I broke it last weekend in Rocky Mountain House,” he said.
”I think my stirrups were a little long because my feet were wanting to get back in my saddle and that was making it a little difficult to stay in there. I get on a lot of horses in the next month, so we’ll get it tweaked up and we’ll be good.”
Spur Lacasse had an impressive 85 point trip on Special Delivery to win the bareback riding. Harley Cole went 3.7 seconds in the steer wrestling to capture the buckle at Innisfail, while team roping duo of Kyle Lucas and Luke Skocdopole won in 5.1 seconds. Blair Smith tied for first with Erik Dublanko at 8.4 seconds in tie-down roping.
Diane Skocdopole was the top barrel racer with a time of 15.9 seconds and Carter Sahli won the steer riding.
In the novice ranks, Danny Vandenameele took home the bareback riding title and Kole Ashbacher won the saddle bronc.
For the full list of results, check out www.rodeocanada.com/results_2017/innisfail-june16-18-2017