It’s Christmas in July, and Curtis Cassidy is finally celebrating the season. The five-time Canadian High Point Champion capped off a rich rodeo run by winning the steer wrestling championship at the 74th Ponoka Stampede. He also took the high point award.
In the Showdown round Sunday evening, Cassidy took his steer down in 4.3 seconds, to cap off an up and down run at Ponoka. In fact, it took 8.5 seconds to throw his very first steer. He was a solid 4.8 on his second one. Sunday afternoon, it was back to some challenges again.
“My steer today came left and then let off, and I just barely bailed in there behind the horns, and held on to him, and then he was on a leg, and I grabbed a front leg and tried to roll him out of it. It was kind of a cluster too. I was glad the last one lined out how it was supposed to be done,” laughed the Donalda cowboy.
This marks the third year in a row a Cassidy has claimed the steer wrestling title at Ponoka, with younger brother Cody owning the buckle for the last two years. So was there family honour at stake, or his own need to keep up with his sibling?
“You don’t want to think about that kind of stuff, but it was in the back of my mind. I was like, darn, am I going to be able to win this twice like my brother did?” he chuckled.
Curtis’ first Ponoka victory came in 2006, before there was the $10,000 bonus showdown.
“I won Calgary that year, and I won the Canadian Finals that year too, so maybe this will be a stepping stone to doing that again!”
Cody had used the famous Cassidy horse Willy the last two years to win Ponoka, but Curtis opted for the younger horse in the pen, Deuce.
“I’ve actually been riding him all week. I think I’ve won about $18,000 this week, and $5,000 last week on Deuce, so it’s been a really good couple of weeks. I’ve doubled my earnings, in two weeks.”
In fact, Cassidy’s winnings at Ponoka alone are just shy of the $10,000 mark.
“I also won second at Williams Lake, and I won fourth out of Cody, Wyoming, and I think fourth in a go-round there, so I probably took $4- or 5,000 out of there as well. It’s been a really good week for me. Maybe the most I’ve ever won over the fourth of July is $4- or 5,000. This will be more the kind of fourth of July everybody talks about for ‘Cowboy Christmas’. I’ve always heard about it, but it’s never happened before.”
To win again at Ponoka is a special thrill for Cassidy.
“My whole family’s here, and it’s just awesome. This is just 60 miles from my house, and it’s not exactly my hometown, but it’s the closest big rodeo to me. It’s just a great cowboy rodeo. Every old cowboy that’s ever run a steer, a calf or a bronc is here watching, and it means a lot, this rodeo.”
It was also the best long weekend run ever for bareback rider Dusty LaValley, who credits the birth of his son in May for his recent hot streak. The Bezanson cowboy won the showdown round with an 87.5 on J Bar Nine, for a total Ponoka payout of $11,907, plus the jacket and buckle. He’s picked up some $18,000 at various rodeos he’s competed in over the last week.
“It’s all beautiful. It’s just a great rodeo. I’m pumped to win it, and I just love Ponoka right now,” said the two-time Canadian champion.
Texan Tuf Cooper came up from Texas without a coat, and it was a chilly evening. He left Ponoka with a brand new coat, one that said Ponoka Stampede Champion, as he had the fastest time in tie down roping in 8.4 seconds. He had a big haul, earning a total of $12,086 over his Ponoka run. He did it on a horse he calls Freckles.
“The first time I ran a calf on him, I said, I’m bringing him to Canada, because I’ll be able to win on him there. It’s working out so far. I’ve rode him at two rodeos, and I’ve won first at both of them,” said Cooper, who also won Innisfail two weeks ago.
Cooper was joined by his two older brothers in the afternoon Finals, and Clif Cooper finished second in the Showdown round.
“It’s awesome to have a big win at a big rodeo,” said Cooper, who is the son of the legendary looper Roy Cooper. “It was a blast. My brothers rope so good, and we showed up and said we were going to win first and second, and we sure enough did. It was so much fun.”
In the saddle bronc riding final, only one of the four riders made the whistle. Isaac Diaz, of Texas, took the big cheque for making the whistle on the Vold horse Awesome, with a score of 79.25.
“That’s a bucking horse,” whistled Diaz. “When I pulled that chip and drew that horse, I was a little scared. I’m not gonna lie. That’s the buckingest horse I’ve ever been on. I don’t know how good I rode him but at least I made the whistle.”
Diaz earned $10,131, at his first appearance at the Ponoka Stampede.
Turner Valley’s Ty Elliott was the only bull rider to make the whistle of the final four. He rode Good Vibrations to 89.25, and a Ponoka payout of $15,243. The barrel racing honors went to South Dakota’s Lisa Lockhart, who turned in a final time of 17.19 seconds, the fastest of the week, for a $13,490.
In the team roping, Bashaw’s Klay White and Levi Simpson tied in the Showdown round with Riley Wilson of Cardston and Marty Lillico of Spirit River. Both had 5.9 second runs, but White and Simpson were thrilled to take the buckles, since they had the fastest time coming in.
Kelly Sutherland won the $50,000 Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash, from the barrel one position. He was driving for Red Deer Motors. It’s the seventh time Sutherland has won Ponoka.
Total attendance at the 74th Ponoka Stampede was 63,040, up from last year.