Cowboys are going for the glory at this weekend’s Cowboy Classic FCA Finals in Red Deer, but they’re also going for the bucks.
The Foothills Cowboys Association is offering its highest payout ever in the history of the semi-pro rodeo association.
“I’m really excited, along with the whole board of directors,” said FCA president Dave Clarke. “With well over $90,000 in prize money, we’re going to be paying out a thousand dollars to win a round every night for each major events. The Finals committee up there in Red Deer, the work they’ve done, has just taken the 2011 Cowboy Classic to another level. It’s just fantastic.”
“That’s a little over a 27 per cent increase in prize money from last year, and that doesn’t include the saddles or buckles. That’s just hard cash.”
Clarke points out the FCA now boasts over 500 members, one of its highest totals ever. Improved prize money was evident during the season as well.
“We’ve increased our added money at most of our rodeos this year, with most over a thousand dollars. Some are up as high as $1,300, and that’s helped spur interest in what the FCA is doing.”
“It’s a positive trend for what we’re trying to do, and for rodeos throughout Alberta, and we’re excited about that.”
The top 10 season finishers from the major events, plus the best six in the minor events, all will be competing for points each round of the sudden death finals to determine the overall champions. Clarke promises the competition will be keen.
“We’ve got Reed Sparks returning, and Chad Thomson. The West boys are coming in from Cadogan, and there are some new people making the Finals in the barrel racing. We’re thinking that you’re going to see a lot of these cowboys not only this weekend but in the future as they go on and become part of the rodeo legends here in Alberta.”
Many of the contenders call central Alberta home. In the saddle bronc riding, Eckville’s Jake Brown comes in the season leader and defending champion. But Innisfail’s Reed Sparks and Rocky’s Branden Dillman will be tussling with him for the buckle.
Bowden talent Ky Marshall would love to come out of the Finals with his second straight bareback riding championship. He and fellow FCA finalist Cole Goodine are both headed to the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton next month, in the novice bareback riding.
The timed events competition is always tough at the FCA Finals, and in the ranks of contenders again will be Riley Warren of Stettler. He was the second highest money earner on the FCA trail this season, collecting almost $13,000 during the season for his calf roping and team roping efforts, and he’ll be competing this weekend in both events. The top FCA money earner this year is actually a newcomer to the Finals. Bailey Hughson of Foremost won $13,426 on her horse Rebel, named horse of the year in the event. Ponoka’s Trevor Jones and Mark Flynn of Camrose came very close last year to winning the team roping title, so they’ve got some unfinished business to take care of this time around.
One of the most enthusiastic ‘youngsters’ at the Finals in the steer wrestling is always Rudy Nieborg of Rimbey, who was in a head to head battle on the last year for the title last year with his good friend Troy Pollitt of Bentley. Pollitt came out on top, and he’ll be back to try and do it again.
Todd Gallais of Olds is another of the cowboys competing in two events at the Finals. He’ll be roping calves and team roping. And after missing last year’s Cowboy Classic, Dallas McDougall of Bashaw is back, as the season leader in calf roping.
Local barrel racing hopefuls include Stacy Lunde of Sundre, Melissa Daines of Innisfail and Shayna Dodds of Ponoka.
Performances times are 7 p.m. tonight, with performances Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Stockman’s Pavilion at Westerner Park. The buckles will be handed out after Sunday’s final performance, also starting at 1 p.m.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor of the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer.