Central Alberta will be well represented at the 41st edition of the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which gets underway tonight in Edmonton. Almost 20 of the 108 contestants, trying for national titles and a chunk of the more than $1.5 million purse, hail from this region.
Some of the names are very familiar ones, and despite the regularity of their appearance at the CFR, they insist it never gets old.
Take Curtis Cassidy, for instance. He’s made the trek north every November since 1997, and he’s more than happy to do so. This year he leads the charge in the steer wrestling, but it’s one of the years when he’s made the cut in tie-down roping as well. He’ll be joined by his brother Cody in the bull dogging, who will be there for the 11th time at Rexall Place.
But no matter the outcome for Curtis Cassidy this year in Edmonton, his 2014 season is not done. He’s excited to be one of the three Canadians headed south to Las Vegas for this year’s National Finals Rodeo as well, where he will be steer wrestling. The other two NFR qualifiers are Pincher Creek’s Dustin Flundra in the saddle bronc riding and bareback rider Jake Vold, who still considers Ponoka his hometown, despite living in Airdrie these days.
Vold is the cowboy heading into Edmonton with the biggest head start. Because the season earnings count towards the overall Canadian championship, having a $15,000-plus lead on his nearest competitor could definitely be a factor come Sunday, despite the high payouts for every go-round in Edmonton. But the cowboy on his heels is Bowden’s own Ky Marshall. It’s only his second CFR in the open bareback riding, but he won the novice title back in 2011. Marshall is the front runner in this year’s all around race, but three-time champ Kyle Thomson is back this year in the hunt and hot on his heels. Defending titlist Travis Reay also aims to make it a real contest for that prestigious honor.
You’ll see plenty of mugshots of Rimbey’s Dean Edge this week, as he and CFR announcer Brett Gardiner of Sylvan Lake, and CFR bullfighter Brett Monea of Wetaskiwin have become the poster trio for Team Cowboy for the Movember cancer fighting promotion. Edge will be competing at his eighth CFR, and for the sixth time, his great horse Sid was named tie-down rope horse of the year.
“He’s been used every year at the CFR for 11 years straight,” noted Edge, proudly. “You can never duplicate him.”
Edge comes into Edmonton in sixth spot in the standings, in a season where he won a mixture of small and big cheques at Canadian rodeos. But after last year’s CFR where he only placed once, Edge made some pre-rodeo adjustments this time around.
“I needed to change something. So I’ve been doing a bit of work on myself. Going to the chiropractor, lifting a few weights.”
As a rancher and auctioneer, fall is a hectic season. But Edge was changing that up too.
“I needed to work a little less, and not take on as many sales before CFR. I don’t need to go there tired and wore out.”
Edge wants to be at a high preparation level for tonight’s action because it’s an important business opportunity.
“She’s a break even just getting there,” he explained, of the financial realities of rodeo.
CFR is where contestants can put their rodeo accounts into the black for the year. But it’s also about being the best, and championship buckles. Chad Besplug will tell you there’s something about winning that makes you crave it even more. The defending, and two-time, bull riding champion plans to compete this week despite breaking two bones in his leg in a non-rodeo related incident at the end of August.
“I was really disappointed the year after I won my first one, not winning it again,” said the Claresholm cowboy. “I really want to win it back-to-back. It feels so good, you want that every year, and it feels like a huge disappointment when you don’t. It’s really fun, and just the experience of winning one can definitely help you get another one. Me and Scott (Schiffner) both have two (titles), and there haven’t been a whole bunch of guys since I’ve been riding win more than that. I really want to win another one.”
Also anxious to do some winning in Edmonton this week will be a member of the famous Daines rodeo clan of Innisfail. But it will be the debut appearance for Sydney Daines, daughter of bronc rider Duane and barrel racer Cheryl Daines.
Sydney is also a member of the RDC Queens basketball squad, so she’s got a hectic sports schedule these days. And even though she’s won her share of FCA barrel racing titles, it will also be the first time at the CFR for Ponoka’s Brook Robertson as a contestant. She knows her way around the place though, as a former Miss Rodeo Canada.
Other Central Alberta CFR contenders include: steer wrestlers JD Hays of Rocky and Trygve Pugh of Ponoka; roper Riley Warren of Stettler; bull rider Tyler Pankewitz of Ponoka; team ropers Tyrel Flewelling of Lacombe, Todd Gallais of Olds, and his brother Travis of Red Deer, Levi Simpson and Logan Bonnett of Ponoka, plus Clint Maddox of Eckville; saddle bronc riders Jim Berry from Rocky Mountain House and Ponoka’s Luke Butterfield.
The first of six Canadian Finals Rodeo performances gets underway tonight at 7:30 p.m.