Rodeo has a long history across North America, and although the world has experienced endless change during that time, it lives on, and at least in Alberta, seems to be thriving.
I’ve been watching rodeo since I was a little kid, even though my dad and big sister really went to the Calgary Stampede for the horse races that were then part of the afternoon show. To them, the rodeo was just something to watch in between the races, but to me it was exciting, and something I kept on attending into adulthood.
I didn’t go to a small town rodeo until just before we moved north, when we went to the Carbon rodeo, where our kids, who had also been to the Stampede a number of times, enjoyed the show… especially when one won a goat kid and one a chicken in the ‘catch and keep’ – they were certainly more lucky than I was as a kid, who always hoped to win a puppy at Kids’ Day at the Stampede.
Those kids met new friends when they started school in St. Paul, and our oldest son came home excited the next spring, asking if we could go to what he said was the Wild Rose Rodeo west of town, and could he try to ride a steer. We could, he could, and that was just the beginning.
We learned that some of the neighbors in our new neighborhood also had kids in rodeo, and we met stock contractor Ken McGinnis and his family when we went to the Moose Mountain Rodeo. By the end of the summer, number one son had ridden a number of steers and even stayed on a few for the full eight seconds, and our middle son had also given this new sport a try.
Late that summer, a discussion by rodeo dads around a kitchen table resulted in the formation of the Lakeland Amateur Rodeo Association, and in 1979, after some of the McGinnis rodeo stock spent the winter in our pasture, it was off to the rodeo circuit, full blast. Sadly, that season was far too short for McGinnis, who died from a bee sting at the Stoney Lake Rodeo, but his stock and his family kept following the circuit, with Les Trach taking over the contractor duties and later becoming a stock contractor in his own right.
That was the beginning of the LARA, which later dropped ‘Amateur’ from its name, with the competitors who started it all joined by many more as time went on, some of them moving on to other associations over time. Now the LRA is in its 44th year, and new generations are the ones rosining up their bull ropes, coiling up their lariats and climbing on their barrel racing horses in search of a win.
Just over a week ago, there were 304 entries on Saturday, 35 of those roping teams, and 307 entries, 33 of them roping teams, at the Grade 9 to 12 Alberta High School Rodeo in St. Paul, in addition to the competitors in the Grade 7 and 8 section on the Friday. Those competitors came from all over Alberta, from Wheatland and Rocky View Counties near Calgary, to Rimbey, Onoway, Athabasca and areas in between. There weren’t many local entries, but some of those who were are definitely names that turn up on the roster at the roping, barrel racing and pole bending events at the C. G. Baker Arena in Elk Point, and one or two from the family rodeos held at Stoney Lake last summer.
The High School Rodeo stock was provided by the new generation of Trach Rodeo Stock, and it was good to see the paint horses and pickup men’s chaps emblazoned with that company’s crest still going strong as well.
That show had far more names on the program than this past weekend’s St. Paul Spring Bust Out Rodeo, as the LRA starts their new season, with 20 more to follow at communities from Mayerthorpe to Meadow Lake and Killam to Kikino before the Showdown Finals brings the best of the best back to St. Paul on September long weekend.
‘Tis the season, everyone… Let’s rodeo!