Ringing in the New Year with rodeo is an option in two different places.
The Ponoka Ag Events Centre is putting on its first New Year’s Eve Bucking Bash. It features bulls and broncs. There will be 24 bull riders, and 12 cowboys getting on bucking horses. There will be both bareback and saddle bronc riders in that crew. The top eight bull riders after their first ride will advance to the finals. The bronc riders get two head each, and again the top eight advance to the finals. Riders include the likes of the Thurstons of Big Valley, the Watt brothers of Hardisty and the Greens of Meeting Creek.
But the stock is also competing. It’s a futurity for the horses, organized by eight-time Canadian saddle bronc champion Rod Hay. It’s called a ‘maturity’ for the bulls, since they’re more seasoned. Ponoka’s Nansen Vold and Duane Robinson are looking after the bull end of things. Sylvan Lake’s Brett Gardiner will be the announcer for the evening, and the rodeo events will be followed by dancing. Tickets are available when the doors open at 6:00 pm.
Down the road in Calgary, it’s the Ultimate Cowboy Event, organized by Eckville’s Scott Wyzykoski. He’s put on the unique contest for several years now, but this is the first time he’s headed to the big city with it. The rodeo tests the versatility of the 14 contestants who’ve bravely signed on. They each have to compete in all five major rodeo events. That means you’ll see bareback riders getting on a bull, and steer wrestlers cinching up a saddle for the bronc riding. It makes for some good watching.
“You get to watch cowboys being cowboys. Nobody wants to wimp out,” chuckled Wyzykoski.
Defending champion Clay Elliott will be back, in hopes of earning the bragging rights two years in a row. This year’s lineup includes Josh and Colter Harden of Big Valley, as well as Branden Dillman from Rocky Mountain House. 2013 Canadian All-Around Champion Travis Reay, long known for his grit in numerous events, will be competing, along with another Canadian All-Around champ, Steven Turner. They’ll be joined by the Smith brothers from Rexburg, Idaho and well as several Montana hands, and even one contender from Arizona!
The Ultimate Cowboy Championship is at the Agrium Western Event Centre at Stampede Park. Doors open at 8:00 pm, with the rodeo action starting at 8:45.