From the competitors, right to the top row of the Enmax Centrium, excitement flowed throughout Tuesday night.
It was perhaps a more nerve-racking opening night than the 44 previous, as for the first time, the Canadian Finals Rodeo was held outside of Edmonton.
CFR 45 hit the arena in Red Deer Tuesday night, and by all accounts, it has been embraced and welcomed by the community.
“It was real special today. Real interesting being this close to home. I’ve been so many times in Edmonton and to come to Red Deer, it’s just a different day,” said saddle bronc rider Jim Berry of Rocky Mountain House.
“It’s positive, it’s fresh and exciting that it’s all new. Nothing jaded about it.”
Tie-down roper Al Bouchard, who was named cowboy of the year by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Monday night, agreed with Berry.
“This is awesome. People in Red Deer are amazing. Everything you ask for, they make it happen,” Bouchard said.
Although he recorded a less than stellar 18.5-second time Day 1, he did manage to spend almost an hour talking rodeo at a local Dairy Queen earlier in the day. Just one small sign that told him it was the right call to bring rodeo to Red Deer.
The veteran roper also serves on the CPRA board of directors that was responsible for bringing the CFR to Red Deer, and he believes, after seeing just a day of competition, they made the right call.
“I think it was the right place to go. I thought about it all summer,” Bouchard said of the move.
“When I sit back 10 years from now, I’ll be sitting in the stands watching and know I made the right decision. After today, I already know I did.”
Clay Elliott, a Nanton, Alta. native who recorded the top score of 86.75 on C5 Rodeo’s Northern Lights, said they’ve been treated like royalty since arriving in Red Deer.
“They’ve treated us like kings. Red Deer has been great to us so far and the atmosphere around here is really exciting. Everybody is pumped to see how it plays out,” he said.
His top performance in the first go round was the product of not over thinking the ride, on a horse he’d never been on before.
“Just the whole fact that was a really nice horse. I got my draw (Monday) afternoon and I knew I had a chance to win,” Elliott said.
“He was one of the better horses, and I knew I would fit his style and he would fit mine. He’s a good horse and a fast horse takes a lot of jumps in eight seconds.”
Berry, the long-time rodeo man from Rocky Mountain House, added he thinks there is some room to grow in Red Deer, but if what happened in Edmonton happens here, it could grow into something special.
“When you came into Edmonton, everybody was die hard. Everybody was there for the CFR,” Berry said.
“That’s the way I’d like Red Deer to be. If Red Deer embraces it like Edmonton, it will be so cool an event and draw so much support.”
Day 1, top three scores:
Bull riding: Garrett Green (Meeting Creek) 87.75; Wacey Finkbeiner (Ponoka) 86.5; Zane Lambert (Ponoka) 86.25.
Bareback: Jake Vold (Airdrie) 85.25; Clint Laye (Cadogan) 85; Seth Hardwick (Ranchester, WY) 83.25.
Saddle Bronc: Clay Elliott (Nanton) 86.75; Dawson Hay (Wildwood) 86.5; Sam Kelts (Stavley) 83.75.
Tie-down roping: Riley Warren (Stettler) 7.8 seconds (tie); Shane Hanchey (Sulphur, LA) 7.8 (tie); Logan Bird (Nanton) 8.1.
Ladies Barrel Racing: Taylor Manning (Yellowhead County) 13.772 seconds; Callahan Crossley (Henniston, OR) 13.868; Kylie Whiteside (Longview) 14.069.
Steer Wrestling: Kody Dollery (Caldwell, TX) 3.6 seconds; Curtis Cassidy (Donalda) 3.7 (tie), Brendan Laye (Consort), 3.7.
Team roping: Riley and Brady Minor (Ellensburg) 4.6 seconds, Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan, 4.7, Brett Buss and Riley Wilson 5.7.
Novice saddle bronc: Lucas Macza, 72.
Steer Riding: Tristen Manning, 71; Jett Lambert 67.5.
Novice bareback: Colton Ouellette 69.5; Mason Helmeczi 68.5.