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New BPRCA president prepares for rodeo

Rodeo isn't just a sport, but a way of life and passion that never diminishes once you get involved, says the new president of the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo and Chuckwagon Association.
Dean Shaver, president of the BPRCA, believes rodeo is both a sport and a culture that can become a huge part of one’s life.
Dean Shaver, president of the BPRCA, believes rodeo is both a sport and a culture that can become a huge part of one’s life.

Rodeo isn't just a sport, but a way of life and passion that never diminishes once you get involved, says the new president of the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo and Chuckwagon Association.

"Rodeo is a sport, but it's also a culture that becomes a huge part of your life," said Dean Shaver, who grew up on a farm in smalltown Saskatchewan in a family of nine brothers and sisters. "Most of the people I know have been involved in rodeo most of their lives and even though we're now in our 50s, we're still sharing great stories of growing up in rodeo."

Since moving to Bonnyville three years ago, Shaver has become heavily involved in promoting the sport and gladly accepted the president's position with the local association which has been working hard for months to organize this weekend's 24th annual Bonnyville Pro Rodeo.

"This is certainly the event that unofficially kicks off the beginning of summer here in Bonnyville," said Shaver, 57, who competed in amateur rodeo until age 29. "It's a huge event in this community and we're really looking forward to another big event."

The only thing that could throw a damper on this year's event would be a repeat of last year's horrible weather, when a rare late spring snowstorm covered the Bonnyville area, he said.

"It was snowing and miserable all weekend, which basically wiped out the event, but we certainly don't expect that to happen two years in a row," he said. 'I've basically told everyone involved to not think about it (weather) and hope for the best.

"The only thing that could stop the rodeo in Bonnyville from being a huge success is Mother Nature and we're very confident she's going to be on our side this year."

Shaver grew up in the Big Muddy Lake area of Saskatchewan, where the Shaver clan helped organize the Bengough Rodeo for decades. That rodeo attracted competitors and fans from across the province and large parts of Alberta for dozens of years, he said.

Shaver is the president and CEO of the local chapter of Canadian Safety Inspections (CSI). He has invited staff from the national organization to Bonnyville to help set up and enjoy this year's pro rodeo event.

Not only is his company providing $70,000 in sponsorship to the pro rodeo event and pro chuckwagon races later this summer, but a large contingent of CSI staff from Ontario, western Canada and Eastern Canada are making the trip to Bonnyville to act as sponsors and take in the fun, he said.

"My general manager Karl Deamond, his wife Shauna and son Liam are all coming up from Hamilton and I have another crew coming in from Eastern Canada and another from Kamloops to check out what the Bonnyville Pro Rodeo is all about," he said. "I'm committed to this event and wanted to get the company I own involved, so things just took off from there."

The amount of community support for the 2011 pro rodeo from Bonnyville and area businesses and local municipal leaders has been tremendous, Shaver said.

"Our association has done a great job of involving the community in organizing and promoting this year's event," he said. "My goal when I took on the position of president was to get the business community and community at large more heavily involved in sponsorship and organization and I think we've accomplished that goal.

"After many years with the same people and same faces, the organization has sort of fallen into a rut and I really think we've jumped out of that rut by introducing more community participation.

"We have organizations like the Fort Kent seniors setting up a hot dog and hamburger stand and I can't tell you how excited they are to be involved. It's that kind of involvement all of us on the committee are so excited about. This is a very busy time of the year, but the amount of community support and amount of people who take time out of their busy schedules to make sure the rodeo goes off without a hitch is truly phenomenal."

Shaver is expecting huge crowds all weekend at the Bonnyville Rodeo Grounds, which he says are in good shape and about to get better.

"We're building all new chutes, which won't be ready until next year, but there has also been a major cleanup and upgrade at the rodeo grounds," he said.

While rodeo will always be a huge part of Alberta culture, Shaver acknowledges there are still some cynics who don't understand the sport and he invites them to check out the professional competition, suggesting most would change their minds.

"I've been involved in the sport my entire life and there are still people out there who believe certain aspects of the rodeo promotes cruelty to animals," he said. "I want to assure them that every precaution is taken to protect animals and rodeo is not a sport that would ever condone any type of abuse towards an animal.

"Some people might watch TV and see a calf at the end of a rope flying through the air. What they might not know is all these competitors have roped thousands of calves and know what they're doing. And, in real life, when a calf is roped it's because its mother is sick and can't feed them, so we have to rope them to make sure they get milk and get fed."