The greatest legacy rodeo champions can provide to the sport is the next generation of competitors. A great opportunity to see that happening comes next week during the 52nd annual Daines Ranch Rodeo.
At his annual pre-rodeo press conference Tuesday, organizer Jack Daines was as excited as ever about this year’s lineup of nearly 700 contestants, including 181 barrel racers. Among those going for a share of the nearly one $250,000 purse will be Kirk Robinson, who lives just down the road from the Daines Ranch.
He’ll be the first calf roper out in the opening performance, and it’s his first time competing at his hometown rodeo. But don’t expect that to faze the college kid. Kirk has grown up with a rope in his hand and some of the best coaching any cowboy could ever want. His father is the legendary Larry Robinson, a six-time Canadian champion, who was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame at the end of May.
After competing in high school rodeo and then college rodeo this year, young Kirk is ready to go hard this summer, planning to attend pretty much every amateur rodeo being held on the prairies, as well as trying to get his permit in the pro ranks.
He’s already on the winning trail, splitting first at the Big Horn Stampede in Caroline, and winning Cadogan. Of the four pro rodeos he’s roped, Robinson has placed at two — in Bonnyville and Coleman — and is just $100 shy of having won enough to take the first step in becoming a full-fledged pro.
“I want to get my permit filled and try and get to as many of the pro rodeos as I can work in, and make the amateur finals,” stated Robinson.
A game plan like that requires a whole lot of traveling up and down the roadways, and joining him in the truck so far has been 17-year-old Kyle Lucas, who is just as anxious to make a future career inn rodeo.
He’s the son of four-time Canadian champion Joe Lucas, who also used to travel the rodeo road with Kirk’s dad, Larry. Young Lucas won this spring’s Stavely rodeo, and has already qualified for his semi-pro card. He’ll be roping in next Wednesday evening’s slack (overflow) at the Daines Ranch.
Both cowboys have grown up benefitting from their father’s instructions and connections. So for them, going head to head with such current stars as nine-time world all-around champion Trevor Brazile and current world tie-down champ Tuf Cooper is no big deal.
Heck, Robinson has played video games with Cooper when he spent time at Robinson’s ranch while rodeoing in Canada, because his Dad, Roy Cooper, roped with Larry Robinson.
Robinson and his brother Ben, who’s roping at the Alberta High School Rodeo Finals this weekend, and his sisters have often made the presentation of the champion’s buckle at the Innisfail Rodeo that’s been donated by Larry for the last 10 years.
As a third-generation roper, Kirk Robinson would love nothing more than to someday be able to win that very same buckle.
But the competition will be keen as ever, with Brazile, the two Cooper brothers, current Canadian leader Shane Hanchey and defending Canadian champion Tyson Durfey all on the Innisfail roster next week.
Speaking of next generation rodeo competitors, Duane Daines is a keen barrel racing fan these days as his daughter Sydney develops her athletic career. She’s qualified for the provincial U17 soccer team this year, but will also get to as many rodeos as she can in hopes of making the Canadian Finals. She’s moved inside the top 10 in the early-season standings after winning third in Leduc last weekend and taking second place last month at Stavely.
“Her mother’s the horse trainer, but I’m her sports psychologist,” grinned Duane, a Canadian bronc riding and three-time all-around champion.
“I tell her to just go out there and beat the clock!”
With as many barrel racers as there are competing at Innisfail, any kind of a placing could go a long way towards a CFR qualification. As always, the Daines event is known as a ‘cowboy’s rodeo’ and Jack Daines makes every effort to accommodate the busy travelling schedule of the cowboys.
That means rodeo action well past sunset.
“I’ve got 18 bull riders on the Saturday night,” confirmed the senior Daines. “I put up some special lights at the arena this year, so they won’t be riding in the dark!”
The Daines Ranch is located just north of Innisfail The first of five rodeo performances goes June 14th at 6:45 p.m., with a double-header on the Saturday. Tickets are available at the Innisfail Auction Market.
l Meantime, Penhold’s Todd Herzog had a big weekend in pro rodeo. The saddle bronc rider won the Wildwood Bronc Bustin’ to collect $4,380, with Rocky’s Jim Berry taking second and $3,160.
At Leduc, Donalda’s Curtis Cassidy won the steer wrestling in 3.3 seconds, to collect $2,157. Rocky Ross of Botha and Marty Lillico of Stettler snugged up their steer in a rapid 4.1 seconds to top the team roping title, and pick up $,1486 apiece.
At the 96th Hand Hills Lake Stampede, Ponoka’s Jack Vold claimed the bareback riding honors and $1,015 for an 85.5 point ride on Calgary Stampede’s Labyrinth, while Innisfail’s Dylan Bilton took the novice bareback title.
This weekend, competitors head west to the Rocky Pro Rodeo, which has increased its purse this year for the 40th anniversary event. Performances go Friday at 6:00 p.m. and then Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m., followed by nightly pony chuckwagon and chariot races.
Dianne Finstad is a Red Deer rodeo writer