Above the Media

Canada 2013: Nanton Community Rodeo

Part Seven: While visiting in Alberta earlier this year Tamara and I were amused at the novelty of seeing people walk around town in cowboy hats, chaps, boots and spurs without a hint of irony. The truth is the cowboy culture is very much alive and well in this part of the world and judging by the number of Western outfitters and cowboy-related events it is also central to the region’s economy.

One evening we attended a Community Rodeo in the town of Nanton. Having never attended a rodeo before we didn’t know what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised. It is very much a family-oriented activity with everyone in attendance on the stands – from Granpa Bob to little Jessie.

Men’s and Ladies’ events run concurrently in two adjacent rings. The younger boys ride calves while the adult men ride bulls and broncos (half-tamed horses). Two or three “pickup men” on horseback make sure the riders dismount safely and then retrieve the loose animal using lassos. If a rider gets bucked, a rodeo clown acts as distraction to the bull until the rider has been cleared from the arena. The girls participate in horseback barrel racing and pole racing. My impression was that every effort is made to keep the event fun and injury free – for both man and beast.

I was also fascinated by the fact that many people travel from town to town with their trailers to participate in these rodeo events. There is a Professional Rodeo Circuit and once a rider reaches pro level, prize money can get pretty lucrative.