Thalia Hibbs with her kids

Hometown rodeo, fair has devout following

While hundreds of thousands are whooping it up at the Calgary Stampede, others are content to attend a much smaller rodeo in Central Alberta.

While hundreds of thousands are whooping it up at the Calgary Stampede, others are content to attend a much smaller rodeo in Central Alberta.

The 95th Benalto Pro Rodeo held Friday through Sunday brought a wide array of fans to the community 13 km west of Sylvan Lake.

Doan Ball has been attending the Benalto rodeo since he was two. He loves supporting the local rodeo put on by the Benalto Agricultural Society. He sponsors the buckles given to bullriders.

“This is one of the better rodeos of similar size because they always get good stock,” said the retired rancher. “And when you’ve been here all your life, it’s great to be here.”

The hometown rodeo is always the best, added his friend Brian Johannson of Spruce View. He used to bullride in high school and is now a commercial contractor.

Johannson has no plans to attend the Biggest Show on Earth, which is celebrating its 100th year in Calgary.

“There’s more than 200 people,” he said with a smile. “It’s too big and it’s too commercialized.”

“And you have to sit so far away down there (at the rodeo) that you almost have to have binoculars,” added Ball. “The chuckwagon races are good.”

Janet Berdahl, a retiree from Benalto, was checking out the crafts at the Heritage Fair in one of the halls on the exhibition grounds. She said the event is great for catching up with old friends, plus she loves the rodeo event too.

Berdahl will not be attending the centennial celebrations at the Calgary Stampede because that exhibition is way too big for her.

“I haven’t been to Calgary in many, many years,” she added.

Lacombe resident Thalia Hibbs brought her three children to the Benalto rodeo for the first time. Her eldest child, nine-year-old Kiana, has been to a small rodeo before.

“I like riding horses and being around them,” said Kiana.

Hibbs added she has no interest in attending the Calgary Stampede.

“It’s exciting for them but I think I like the smaller venues better,” she said.

At one of the concession booths, Kathy Chimuk of Markerville was busy getting ready to serve an expected pile of customers on a hot summer day. On Friday, she and her husband served between 250 to 280 hamburgers.

This is their second year at the Benalto rodeo.

“I’ve never gone (to the Calgary Stampede) and we’re working all the way through (so we won’t be attending),” she said.

Barrel racer Marti Hampton of Dawson Creek, B.C. was uncertain if she’d get the chance to watch some of the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede, but she’s not able to enter herself since it’s invite only.

She and her husband head to small rodeos every weekend so she can compete.

“This is an awesome little rodeo — look at all the RVs and the people who are here for the whole weekend,” she said.

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