A yearly ranching tradition in Central Alberta was gifted some blue skies and warm weather when the Innisfail Professional Rodeo returned for the 57th year at the Daines Ranch over the weekend.
Co-organizer Danny Daines said nearly 12,000 people came out for the four performances – leading to what he described as the greatest rodeo at his families ranch ever.
“The best word to describe it is overwhelming,” Daines said. “The weather is everything when it comes to putting an outdoor event on and when you get the weather, the crowd comes. It means everything to have the crowd come out when you put on an event and I can tell people still really like rodeo. They came like you can’t imagine and it was an awesome sight to see that many people out at the ranch.”
Daines said the Innisfail Pro Rodeo has a unique advantage not only with its fortuitous placement in June, but also the quality of riders that come in and compete.
“All of those rodeos (in Central Alberta) are really good and I think June is the favourite month for the cowboys to come out to Innisfail,” he said. “They know what they are going to get and the stock is the best we can get at both ends of the arena. I think the format we have in a ranch setting brings them out. The rodeo is tremendous but it is the sights as well. You are in the country and you can see all the beauty of the countryside. June is a beautiful month for that. The grass is growing and it is a nice feeling to be out in the country at the Daines Ranch Rodeo.”
He added Innisfail is a launchpad for many riders to earn enough money to be invited to the Ponoka Stampede, the Calgary Stampede and also to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton.
Daines said one of his favourite things from year to year is the people from all over the world who come down to the ranch for rodeo.
“There are people there for the first time and there’s others who have been here many times,” he said. “A family showed up by accident all the way from North Carolina and their kids got in the sheep riding. It was just awesome to meet them. They were astounded by what they saw because they don’t see this kind of stuff in their part of the world. They said ‘this is unbelievable and we will be back again’.”
Luckily for the 12,000 who attend, they were able to see some of the best athletes perform in ideal rodeo conditions.
“It was one of those kind of rodeos where you can pick your favourites to win,” he said. “Zeke Thurston had a great draw in the saddle bronc riding. He was the winner and he is the reigning world champion saddle bronc rider. He is a Canadian boy from Big Valley Alberta. It was a great ride to see. It was a three-way tie in the bill riding and the steer wrestling had Harley Cole come in with a fast time – he won that. There was a tie in the calf roping.”
Daines explained good weather contributes to much of the livestock cooperating, and this was definitely the case over the weekend.
“It plays a huge role with the livestock,” he said. “The cowboys and cowgirls love when the sun is shining and those bucking horses were getting going out in the arena. For the first time we had Brahma cows for the boys’ steer riding. It was electrifying to watch and those kids came with their riding pants on.”
Daines said the committee tries to introduce new events every single year and this year they chose to honour a well-known hockey family in the region.
“We always try to have new events and on Saturday we had a tribute to the Sutter family – we called it Sutter Saturday,” he said. “The Sutter boys cracked it all the way to the NHL started in Viking, Alberta with their minor hockey and from there they went to the Red Deer Rustlers Junior. From there they went to the Lethbridge Broncos and then they were drafted into the National Hockey League. It was an honour to have the Sutter family there and they are being inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. It meant a lot to do a tribute to them and it was so rewarding to see the whole family there. It was a big hit.”
He added some of the best cowboys in the world come from the Viking area including George Mryen.
Meanwhile, Daines said plans for next years rodeo are already underway.
“A lot of the Daines family plays a big part in everything and when you put a good event on and it all comes into place, it makes you really excited for next year again,” he said. “The planning is going on as we speak. There are definitely new things to think of right now and it’s about making your rodeo better in any way, shape or form. Right now we are in the thinking process. We are on high after finishing this one and it will go down in the record books as maybe one of the greatest ever because of the weather and the turnout was full of people who wanted to come out and see a rodeo at the Daines Ranch in Innisfail.”