Ponoka’s Shelby Spielman finished second in the ladies barrel racing on night one of the Canadian Finals Rodeo 47 at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate)

Ponoka’s Shelby Spielman finished second in the ladies barrel racing on night one of the Canadian Finals Rodeo 47 at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate)

Canadian Finals Rodeo is back in Red Deer

Fans were back in the stands watching the event for the first time since 2019

Fans were in the stands again for Canadian Finals Rodeo 47.

It had been more than 700 days since CFR 46 last took to the Peavey Mart Centrium in 2019, with last year being wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in that time, it’s that the Big Valley native Zeke Thurston is one of the best saddle bronc riders in the world. Thurston is the defending Canadian champion, winning the title in 2019 and was the season leader heading into the event.

Thurston won the opening round Wednesday and was thrilled to be back in Red Deer.

“It feels like a while. I’m so excited, the crowd was better than I thought it was going to be,” said Thurston, who won nearly $10,000 for his ride Wednesday.

“Makes me happy to see that. I think people were missing events, missing rodeo. It’s awesome to see them come out and enjoy, they look like they’re enjoying themselves.”

The 27-year-old posted an 87-point ride on Vold Rodeo’s Split Decision and said while there were some nerves, he was happy to get the job done and set himself up for a strong week.

“Any time you get in one of these multiple head situations, a lot of it’s out of your own control but if you can just win that first round, kinda hit ‘em in the face and let everybody know that you’re there, that helps a lot,” said Thurston, who is the season leader and a two-time world champion.

“That gets the ball rolling and you get some momentum set up.”

The loudest cheer of the night came for Innisfail resident Callum Miller, who posted the only qualified bull ride of round one. Miller saved the best for last in his re-ride, posting an 87 and bringing the crowd to its feet.

Miller, a native of Australia who has lived in Innisfail for a year and a half, said it was special to have so many fans out.

“It’s great, we’re not too far from Red Deer. I’ve got to know a lot of people in the area and there’s quite a few people that came to watch. It was really good to hear that crowd roar,” he said.

“Can’t beat a good crowd.”

Five-time steer wrestling champion Cody Cassidy of Donalda added it was fun to be back competing at the national championship.

“It’s great to be back, in some way shape or form at CFR,” said Cassidy, who said he’s got a huge contingent of fans.

“It’s going to be a little bit different this week but the crowd looked great (Wednesday). I don’t think you can ask for a better start to the rodeo. I think everybody is excited to get out. Everybody is eager to get back at it…It was good to see the crowd out there and I’m happy to be here.”

Cassidy won the opening performance with a takedown in 3.5 seconds, good for a $9,360 cheque and the lead in the overall standings. Although Cassidy won the average in Red Deer in 2019, Wednesday was the first time he won a round at the event.

“Feels good. I started thinking maybe I was a little bit snake-bitten here,” he joked.

“I led the average in 2019 when we were here and I had a good Finals, minus one steer. I was one steer away from winning the Canadian that year… it stings a little bit because I’d like to have that one back. That’s rodeo and those are going to happen. Definitely happy I have this round win and I can go take care of business the rest of the week.”

In the evening’s first event, Ponoka’s Shelby Spielman finished second in the barrel racing, in a time of 14.206. She finished just behind Lynette Brodoway of Brooks, who won the performance in 14.086. Lacombe’s Justine Elliott was third picked up $4,560 for her third-place finish.

In bareback riding, Clint Laye took home top spot in round one. Laye finished with an 87.25 ride on Macza Pro Rodeo’s Lucky Draw.

Tee McLeod and Brady Chappel won round one of the team roping in 4.3 seconds and sit second in the overall standings.

Jason Smith of Wimborne earned a win in the tie-down roping.

In the novice saddle bronc, Brodie Roessler captured top spot and Cruz McNulty won novice bareback and Kane Scott won steer riding.

Round 2 of CFR 47 goes at 6 p.m. at the Peavey Mart Centrium Thursday.

 

Ky Marshall of Bowden finished second in round one of the Canadian Finals Rodeo 47, at the Peavey Mart Centrium Wednesday. It was the first time the national event had been held since 2019, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Red Deer Advocate)

Ky Marshall of Bowden finished second in round one of the Canadian Finals Rodeo 47, at the Peavey Mart Centrium Wednesday. It was the first time the national event had been held since 2019, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Red Deer Advocate)

Linden Woods of High River Riders to an 86-point score on Cincy Whitney in the opening round of bareback riding at Canadian Finals Rodeo 47 at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate)

Linden Woods of High River Riders to an 86-point score on Cincy Whitney in the opening round of bareback riding at Canadian Finals Rodeo 47 at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate)