Wildrose Rodeo Association (WRA) finals organizers are promising four days of exciting rodeo action with the best talent northern Alberta has to offer, including a number of locals.
From Sept. 13-16 at the Barrhead Agrena, close to 100 competitors will vie for supremacy in more than a dozen events to see who will be crowned WRA champions — in order to qualify for the finals, an athlete must finish in the Top 10 in their event.
Tickets for single performances are $15 for adults and youth six to 17 years-old are $10. Five packs are $65 and $40 respectively, while five and under are free, with all weekday performances starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday there are two performances, the first one for Kids Day starts at 12:45 p.m. and a 7 p.m., while Sunday’s activities start at 1 p.m.
One of the surprising and perhaps not so surprising entrees is Marvin Braden, who is making his 33rd straight appearance in calf roping.
“I don’t care what rodeo circuit we are talking about: when you qualify for the finals that many times, that is an amazing feat,” said said Barrhead and District Agricultural Society president Randy Schmidt.
Braden will be challenged by ropers Brett, Dylan and Kayden Knapp as well as Koby Ziemmer who all hail from the Mayerthorpe area.
Other notable area competitors include Marc O’Dempsey, out of Mayerthorpe, who will be competing in saddle bronc.
“He’s a former champion and a little bit older than a lot of the people who compete in the saddle bronc competition, being in his mid-to-late 30s, but he is a great rider who has proven he can still get it done,” he said.
This year, the WRA decided to change how they score the finals.
Instead of competitors starting off with a clean slate, they bring forward all the points they accumulated over the season.
“That may not mean a lot in the timed events, but for the rest of them, it can be huge,” he said.
O’Dempsey in particular is currently leading the field by more than 2,000 points, which Schmidt said will make him nearly impossible to beat.
Other local area saddle bronc riders include Cody Borris, from Flatbush, who is second in the standings and Zarley Johner, from Mayerthorpe, who is currently in fourth.
In steer wrestling, there is Kagen Schmidt, from Barrhead, who comes into the finals sitting in fourth.
In team roping, Barrhead’s Schmidt clan dominates the Top ten, qualifying four headers, Tate, Taylor, Tyler and Cole Schmidt, and two heelers, David and Ronald.
In novice riding, Kagen Schmidt makes his return, while Ashlee Keith represents Barrhead in junior barrel racing.
In addition to the athletes, the finals will have another local connection with Randy Schmidt helping provide colour commentating throughout.
“It is always an amazing event and this year is no exception, so I hope everyone comes out and cheers on all the athletes that have worked so hard to make it to the finals,” he said.
Wildrose Rodeo Association history
The WRA began when rodeo legend Robbie McDonald, who was becoming more and more disillusioned with the politics in rodeo, decided to form a new amateur rodeo association.
This new association was called the North Eastern Alberta Amateur Rodeo Cowboys Association (NEAARCA) and it was based on the best of rodeo tradition. It began modestly with 50 members and a small handful of rodeos, the first one being in Hylo in 1980.
In 1983, the name was changed to Wild Rose Amateur Rodeo Association (WRARA). It was changed yet again to the Wild Rose Rodeo Association in 1985, and was finally was shortened to the Wildrose Rodeo Association (WRA) in 1990.
Today, it boasts more than 600 members and every year hosts an annual rodeo final showcasing the best rodeo athletes it has to offer.
Schmidt said the WRA finals are different than most other rodeo final competitions.
For the WRA finals, the athletes who have the Top 10 point totals in each of the seven core rodeo events (bull riding, bareback and saddleback riding, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling and ladies’ barrel racing) will compete to see who is the best in each of their individual events.
The finals will also feature the Top 6 junior-point leaders, who will compete in the steer riding, bull riding, breakaway roping, and barrel racing events.