You could call it ‘Jack’s last stand’.
After more than half a century of putting on a top notch professional rodeo in the family’s ‘back yard’, organizer Jack Daines says it’s the end of the line for him. It also, most likely, spells the end of the event in its current format at the Innisfail ranch.
In his typically blunt, no holds barred way, Daines is sharing the news. Don’t be surprised to hear a radio commercial with a rather unusual take on the whole deal.
“I said at 79 years old, I’ll probably die in the next ten years,” related the always colorful auctioneer, at the pre-rodeo slack. “But rather than coming to my funeral, all my friends, why don’t you load up instead and come to the rodeo this weekend, and say hi, (while I’m) alive.”
It certainly would be worth the trip. There’s only one Jack Daines, and it’s quips like that all throughout the rodeo that help make it unique; along with the picturesque setting in the green rolling hills, and the relaxed atmosphere.
From a large family, Jack got the ball rolling for a home rodeo when he was a young bronc rider, and his younger brothers were still riding steers.
“I built all the gates at home, and brought them out and put them up. Three times we built them out of wood, and then we built them out of steel twice, and then the grandstand,” he recalled.
“I built it as a place to practice. Never did I think I’d put 54 rodeos on here.”
“But now comes the time when I’ve got to retire, and shut it down. I’m not going to be doing it anymore. If somebody picks it up, it carries on. But I don’t think they will, the amount of work that it is. You’ve got big rodeo committees that run big rodeos, but this has been run pretty much by an individual.”
It would be difficult for even an army to match the drive and energy this one man has put into the annual June event, signing up sponsors, reminding cowboys across North America to enter, and organizing security for the dance hall. The rodeo dominated family dinner discussions and meant many a late night phone call. But it was a passion, and Daines was never happier than when he looked out from the announcer’s stand on a full hillside of fans getting as much enjoyment from an awesome bronc ride as he was.
He was always pulling for the cowboys, yet prided himself on making sure the very best in stock was there for the challenge. Even on a year or two when he was injured, he’d still be there for every performance, no matter what the weather.
And there have been as many rainy days as sunny ones over the years.
“You know when they drove the covered wagons a hundred years ago, they didn’t just run on the nice days. They went every day. So this rodeo goes every day. Put a jacket on, and come on out here and have some fun.”
Every year of the rodeo brings its share of drama and stories, but there have been some highlight, history making moments during the Innisfail Rodeo.
“There’s so much,” Daines stated proudly. “Glen O’Neill with the 95 point ride here in the saddle bronc riding – it was one of the highest rides ever made in rodeo, and it was made right here at the Daines Ranch.”
Others recall the year when the scheduled rider for the legendary Calgary Stampede horse Grated Coconut couldn’t make it, so Daines offered a hundred dollar bill to World Champion Kelly Timberman to get on him, just for fun. The Wyoming cowboy was thrilled to do it, even in the pouring rain, and had the money framed along with a picture of the magical moment.
Several generations of rodeo cowboys have made the Innisfail rodeo a regular part of their itinerary and Daines was as excited to see them come along, as he was to welcome rodeo notables like Trevor Brazile and Fred Whitfield.
But there’s not much time for looking back when there’s still a rodeo to put on, and it isn’t long before Daines slips back into promotion mode, and begins highlighting the champions and matchup fans will see this weekend.
“This is one of the greatest rodeos ever in the history of rodeo, and I just hope everybody would just take time and come this weekend for me, because this means a tremendous lot for me and my family.”
“And there’s free camping and a free dance with your rodeo ticket,” he quickly adds.
Daines’ plan is to ride off into the sunset after the buckles are handed out Sunday afternoon, but will that truly be the end of the story? A thank you plaque for Jack Daines in the rodeo office has the quote ‘This may be my last year’, but ends with a question mark.
“There comes a time with everybody, and I don’t care whether you’re a politician or a rancher or a farmer, that you’ve got to sit down and say that’s enough,” stressed Daines.
“I hope I can stick to it. Today, I’m saying that. And I hope I don’t break loose next year,” he chuckled.
The timed events got an early start at this year’s Innisfail rodeo because of the large number of contestants. Leading the way in the barrel racing is Laci Suitor, with her time of 15.877 seconds.
“It felt awesome,” shared the cowgirl from Duchess. “I was second out on the ground, so that felt good. I was running Friendly, and he’s a horse that we raised. He’s nine years old, and I had a lot of success with him in his futurity, and derby years, and he worked really good today. I feel like my luck has maybe changed for the better, because I haven’t made a dime all year, so this is good. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Erik Dublanko of Thorsby has the fast time in tie-down roping of 9.1 seconds, with Straws Milan of Cochrane turning in the speedy steer wrestling run of 4.6 seconds. The duo of Travis Nickolson of Wainwright and Clint Brower of Stettler lead the team roping with 6.4 seconds.
The mutton bustin leads off the action tonight at 6:30 pm, followed by pro rodeo at 6:45 pm at the Daines Ranch, with performances at 1:00 and 6:30 tomorrow, and then wrapping up Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.