Growing up in Ponoka, Brett Buss knows what the world famous Ponoka Stampede is all about. He’s been to it many times. Only this year will be different.
For the first time, Buss will be among the 600 contestants vying for the richest rodeo purse in North America on the July long weekend.
It’s the second year on the pro trail for the team roper. He had a sparkling rookie debut, winning the season leader award with his partner Jeffrey Quam, and then finishing fourth overall for headers after the Canadian Finals Rodeo. However, his success came a little too late for him to rope at Ponoka last June.
“Last year, I didn’t have enough money won,” said Buss. “They had different qualifications last year. If they would have waited one more weekend to close the qualifications off, I would have qualified.”
The long wait to compete in home territory is over, and Buss is excited about the prospects of participating.
After Wednesday’s Stampede press conference, the 20-year-old hand was headed over to the rodeo grounds to watch the steers being used in the Oldtimer’s team roping.
The best of them will make it the rodeo pen. He also wanted a contestant’s perspective on the famous Ponoka Stampede long score.
As familiar as Buss is with the Stampede grounds in his hometown, he’s never really had the chance to test out the long run down the alley, and what that means for a team roping run.
“They used to have some local club rodeos here, but we never ran out of the long score. I got to rope out of it once. You get rolling pretty good by the time you hit the end of the tunnel.”
Buss is trying to convince himself it will be standard operating procedure performing in front of a crowd of friends and family, when he nods his head Monday for the run.
“To me, it’s just another rodeo. You go at it like you do any other rodeo. Otherwise if you think about it too much, that it’s your hometown rodeo, you’re not going to do as good.
Buss and Quam prepared for the Ponoka pressure the best way possible. They won $8474 over the three rodeos they worked this past weekend. That included winning the buckles at the Sundre Pro Rodeo for a rapid 4.2 second run.
Buss is hoping winnings from Ponoka can be another big step on the road to a Canadian championship.
“Last year we had about half the money we’ve got won now, so we’re sitting pretty good. We should just about have the Finals made now, and we’ve got lots of good rodeos coming up for the next month.”
Last year, Buss and Quam made a late season dash to the top of the pack, so it’s a bit different to be well inside the top ten standings already.
“It’s kind of comfortable and now we can just keep picking away and have some fun.”
This year’s 73rd annual Ponoka Stampede is the seventh largest rodeo in North America, with this year’s purse providing $600,000 for rodeo and pro chuckwagon contestants.
The Ponoka Stampede rodeo kicks off tonight with a 7:00 pm rodeo performance. Then tomorrow, rodeo moves to 1:00 pm, and the first wagons performance goes tomorrow night at 6:30.
Both run daily through to July first, where the afternoon performance is a top 12 finals, to determine the four contestants for the Stampede Showdown that night at 6:30, which also features the $50,000 Dash for Cash.
Dianne Finstad is rodeo reporter for Zed 99 and CKGY