Canadian cowboys held their own at the Calgary Stampede rodeo by winning four of six events on Showdown Sunday.
Tie-down roper Beau Cooper, saddle-bronc rider Dawson Hay, steer wrestler Scott Guenthner and bull rider Jared Parsonage all finished first in their respective events to take home the winner’s share of $50,000.
“That was pretty cool,” said Parsonage, of Maple Creek, Sask., of being the fourth consecutive Canadian to step on the stage to accept his bronze statue and $50,000 cheque. “It was a good day for the Canadians.
“There’s a lot of really talented rodeo athletes here. We’ve got some really special rodeo athletes up here in Canada and we dang sure showed them today.”
Parsonage qualified for the finals with an 88-point performance atop Red Rocker in the opening round, which featured 12 competitors. Then, in the final round, he was the only one of the four riders to stay atop his bull for the required eight seconds and was rewarded by the judges with a score of 89 on Wild Time.
“I got a good bull and I rode good,” said Parsonage, who finished second in the finals at the 2019 Calgary Stampede and third last year. “Third time’s a charm. If you keep putting yourself in these positions and you keep riding your bulls, it’ll eventually work out.”
For all six winners on the day, it was their first-ever Calgary Stampede rodeo title.
Kade Sonnier, of Carencro, La., started off the afternoon by winning the bareback championship with a 92-point ride aboard Virgil, who was subsequently chosen as the Stampede’s top bareback horse.
“With great horses like that, they’re always going to do something a little bit different and always be on their ‘A’ game and try to have a little bit of an edge on you,” Sonnier said. “I just kept my chin down, set my feet hard, lifted up my rigging, and did the basics — and it worked out.”
Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, of Lampasas, Texas, then posted the fastest time of 17.133 seconds in the barrel racing finals to win her first $50,000 cheque in Calgary.
“I just have no words for how exciting this is,” said Pozzi Tonozzi, who competed at her first Calgary Stampede in 2004. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and to finally have a dream come true, it’s pretty amazing.”
Cooper, of Stettler, Alta., then stopped the clock in seven seconds flat to finish first in the tie-down roping finals ahead of Kyle Lucas of Carstairs, Alta., who posted a time of 8.6 seconds.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Cooper said. “There’s a reason you have bad days, so when you feel things like this, it lives with you forever. I’ll never forget this moment and everything that’s went into it. I can’t thank God enough for everything He’s done. It’s a crazy day.”
Next up, Hay followed in the footsteps of his older brother Logan, who won the saddle-bronc event one year earlier.
While Logan scored 89.5 points on Baby Kibitz last year, Dawson — who finished second behind his brother in 2022 — scored 92 on Xplosive Skies to continue the tradition of Hay family members winning in Calgary.
“It’s huge for us,” said Hay, whose dad Rod won four saddle-bronc titles between 1994 and 2005, while his uncle Denny won in 1998. “It’s kind of a staple of our family. Some of the biggest moments in my family’s career have been here at Calgary — some of the biggest rides.
“It set up my brother last year for his first (National Finals Rodeo). He came to Calgary and just cleaned house and took that fire from here and kept a rollin’ all year.”
Dawson’s cousin Ben Andersen, of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., finished second thanks to his 90-point performance aboard Tokyo Bubbles, which earned him a payday of $20,000.
As the final steer wrestler out of the gates, Guenthner, of Provost, Alta., knew that he had to beat a time of 3.6 that was posted by Jesse Brown, of Baker City, Ore.
He not only beat that time, he set the fastest standard of the 10-day show by stopping the clock at 3.2 seconds.
“I knew I had a good steer,” Guenthner said. “I knew I needed to use him — and it worked out. I definitely wasn’t looking to be the best of the week. I just wanted to win it.”
Like Dawson Hay before him, Guenthner became a second-generation winner in Calgary. His dad Ken took home the steer-wresting title at the 1982 Stampede.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Guenthner said. “I was going through a (memories) box the other day and I was in Grade 3 or something and I wrote, ‘One of my goals is to win Canada and the Calgary Stampede.’
“I’ve won Canada three times, so now it was like, ‘OK, Calgary, I have to do it sometime,’ so to get to go in the books with my dad is kind of cool.”
Later in the evening, Alberta chuckwagon driver Layne MacGillivray won his first-ever Cowboys Rangeland Derby title by edging out Kurt Bensmiller at the finish line in an official time of 1:13.24.
For his efforts, the 48-year-old MacGillivray of Halkirk won $50,000 and a new GMC truck, while 40-year-old Bensmiller, of Dewberry, Alta., took home $20,000 for his second-place showing.
Ross Knight, 57, of St. Walburg, Sask., had to settle for third and a cheque worth $10,000.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2023.
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press