ALL GUTS, ALL GLORY “I’ve always loved that horse, and you don’t always get the opportunity to get on a horse like that, so I picked him. There were a few other horses in there that I had won on before that I was pretty tempted to choose, but I have come off of Wild Cherry a couple times before for a lot of money, and I figured, what better place to try him again? I went X+4 for rein but on the second jump he got me a little stretched out and I lost some rein. After that I knew I really had to hustle!” —Dawson Hay Photo by Billie-Jean Duff
Pro Rodeo Canada Insider
See you at the CFR!
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November 3-7, 2021 Bleed: 7.625” Trim: 7.125”
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9/8/20 5:42 PM
Canadian Cowboy Country October/November 2021
LEAD OR BE LED
Congratulations! Well, here we are with a shortened but exciting rodeo season under our belts and only a few weeks from the start to the 2021 Canadian Finals Rodeo. It’s been an exciting summer on both sides of the 49th parallel. Canadian rodeos and special events that were able to move ahead this year have enjoyed strong fan and sponsor support and appreciative competitors. It was a summer that saw both record-setting crowds and recordsetting rides. Thank you to all of our rodeo committees — those active this season and those planning for 2022. We appreciate you all. Congratulations, CFR qualifiers and season leaders. We’ll be excited to see veterans and new qualifiers head to Westerner Park in Red Deer from November 3–7. And for the first time, breakaway roping is included at the 2021 CFR. Watch the website RodeoCanada.com over the next few weeks for the list of CFR competitors, stock, personnel and other details. For CFR ticket information and a list of peripheral events in and around CFR, visit www.CFRRedDeer.ca. And once again, if you cannot attend CFR in person, FloRodeo will be streaming the arena action live throughout the five days. To sign up, check out FloRodeo.com Congratulations as well to the 2021 Maple Leaf Circuit Finals qualifiers. The top ten contestants from the 2021 season in the seven major events (and the top ten breakaway ropers) will compete at Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, Sask., between November 24–27. We’re also celebrating the success of those CPRA athletes and stock contractors who enjoyed a presence south of the border. Several CPRA athletes are ranked in the top 15 in the World/ PRCA standings and will appear at the cowboycountrymagazine.com
2021 CPRA Schedule NOVEMBER Canadian Finals Rodeo **............Nov 3–7, 2021 www.CFRRedDeer.ca Six performances: Nov 3–7, 2021 Rodeo Grounds: Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alta. Total Prize Money Payout: $1,458,700
DECEMBER Maple Leaf Circuit Finals ** ..........Nov 24–27, 2021 www.Agribition.com
National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV, in early December. Thank you to all those who supported Westerner Park’s Cowboy Kicks initiative and the Canadian Cowboy Classic Golf Tournament. Both events contribute funds to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sport Medicine Team, a group that is near and dear to our hearts in the rodeo world. And with rodeo well underway once again, the CPRA welcomes sponsors for 2021 year-end awards and the Night of Champions, and our national level partners for various programs (Officials, Pro Tour and Maple Leaf Circuit). Contact the office for details 403 945-0903 or email cpra@ RodeoCanada.com See you at the CFR!
Four performances: Nov 24–27 @ 7pm Rodeo Grounds: Evraz Place, 1500 Elphinstone St., Regina, Sask Main Stock Contractor: C5 Rodeo Timed Event Stock Contractor: Lazy B Timed Event
** Indicates live-streamed on FloRodeo All dates are subject to change. Please visit RodeoCanada.com for up-to-date information.
Terry Cooke President, Canadian Professional Rodeo Association 39
Pro Rodeo Canada Insider
AGRIBITION & MAPLE LEAF CIRCUIT FINALS By TERRI MASON
GRIBITION IS A MAJOR EVENT — AND ITS REACH TO THE AGRICULTURAL
PRODUCERS, INNOVATORS, MANUFACTURERS, BREEDERS AND PARTICIPANTS HAS CIRCLED THE GLOBE AND BACK AGAIN. FOR THE LAST 50 YEARS, AGRIBITION HAS EARNED A REP FOR HOSTING AND PROMOTING THE PEOPLE AND CANADA’S LEADING-EDGE TECHNOLOGIES IN ALL ASPECTS OF FOOD PRODUCTION AND OTHER ASPECTS OF AGRICULTURAL LIFE.
Photos courtesy Agribition
Also, a Major Event connected to Agribition is the rodeo titles of the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals. In 2018, the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Assoc. expanded the rodeo circuit system by welcoming Canada as the # 13 Maple Leaf Circuit. As the regular rodeo season ends, the top 10 competitors from each rodeo event qualify to compete at their circuit finals rodeos. Champions from those rodeos and the overall year-end winners from each circuit compete at Kissimmee, Fla., to vie for RAM NCFR championships. Agribition is proud to host the prestigious Maple Leaf Circuit Finals — one more feather in the cap of the nation’s leading agricultural event. c Canadian Cowboy Country October/November 2021
CANADIAN FINALS RODEO PREVIEW By BARB POULSEN
Photo by CovyMoore.com/ Covy Moore
HE 47TH ANNUAL CANADIAN FINALS RODEO IS ONLY A FEW WEEKS AWAY! SET FOR NOV 3–7 AT WESTERNER PARK IN RED DEER, ALTA., HERE IS WHAT TO EXPECT AS FAR AS ARENA ACTION, ALONG WITH SOME OF THE OFFERINGS ON THE SCHEDULE FOR CANADA’S
PREMIERE PRO RODEO EVENT. 2021 WILL SEE A RETURN TO A WEDNESDAY TO SUNDAY FORMAT WITH SIX PERFORMANCES: 7:00 P.M. START TIME WED-SAT EVENINGS, AND 1:00 P.M. SAT AND SUNDAY MATINEES.
Once again, the CFR will feature the seven major rodeo events: saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, steer wrestling, tiedown roping, ladies barrel racing and team roping — along with novice bareback and saddle bronc (Nov 3–5) and junior steer riding Nov 3–6. This year’s new event roster will be breakaway roping with the top six competitors from the regular season vying for the title over the final two days. cowboycountrymagazine.com
Look for a stellar lineup of both contestants and stock at the long-standing rodeo finals, including reigning and former champions. With the challenges of cross-border competition this year, fans can expect to see a higher representation of Canadian athletes. Among the competitors, fans can expect to be cheering on two-time World and reigning Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion Zeke Thurston, bull riding champions
Edgar Durazo, Wacey Finkbeiner and Dakota Buttar; high point champs Riley Warren and Morgan Grant, steer wrestling legends and brothers Curtis and Cody Cassidy, reigning barrel racing champion Brooke Wills and stand-out team ropers, Dawson and Dillon Graham and Tyrel and Tel Flewelling. Follow rodeocanada.com for a full CFR 2021 qualifier list. Other elements of CFR week include a western lifestyle trade show, competitor autograph sessions, nightly buckle presentations, cabaret concerts, the Alberta Hereford Showcase, the annual Ladies of Canadian Professional Rodeo Fashion Show, CPRA Night of Champions and a variety of Red Deer and area community events. Check out cfrreddeer.ca for details and ticket information. See the Fashion Show and Night of Champions at rodeocanada.com. c 41
Pro Rodeo Canada Insider WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
ALICIA ERICKSON REDEFINING RODEO QUEEN BY DIANNE FINSTAD
ot even a pandemic could sidetrack this determined cowgirl from fulfilling her mandate as Miss Rodeo Canada. Alicia Erickson has taken the crown to new heights in her extralong reign, elevating the sport’s profile in Canada and beyond. 42
When COVID-19 restrictions shut down rodeo in Canada just months after Erickson earned her title at the 2019 Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer, she developed an active and positive presence on social media. Then when rodeos began to resume south of the border, she worked hard to find a way to safely head down to represent Canadian athletes and stock at those events. And now that nearly a year’s worth of Canadian rodeos has been squeezed into just three months, Erickson has been
dashing up and down the highways, trying to get to as many rodeos and appearances as possible. All daunting challenges faced head-on, with a genuine smile and her trademark upbeat, positive approach. It’s not surprising once you get to know Alicia Erickson. From a little girl growing up in Trochu, whose imagination was sparked by a picture of her mother as a queen at a rodeo, to a youngster who produced poster board presentations to support her pesky
Canadian Cowboy Country October/November 2021
“I believe that for some reason, I was the lucky one chosen to be Miss Rodeo Canada for two years.”
request for a pony, and then saved up the $900 to get it done. “My parents really did not want me to get involved in horses or rodeo, but I was a very, very persistent little girl,” Erickson recalls, with a smile. “I remember just being annoying. I don’t think my parents had a choice but to ‘somewhat’ allow me and support me in the decision.” Once she could drive, time spent in 4-H and high school rodeo helped build her western skills portfolio. Erickson then cowboycountrymagazine.com
tracked down and connected with Katy Lucas (2015 Miss Rodeo Canada) to get some insider tips on rodeo queen preparations. Then she began her quest, collecting the Carstairs, Hanna and Ponoka Queen honours before the “dream come true” moment of being named Miss Rodeo Canada herself. Erickson’s reign began as scheduled, with a trip to the National Western Stock Show in Denver and numerous appearances. But by March 2020, everything
ground to a halt, and so began the COVID lockdown. Undaunted, Erickson pivoted to online promotion, doing social media posts on everything from rodeo queens who are health care workers to rodeo results to throwback photos from rodeos that couldn’t happen. By May, the Miss Rodeo Canada board decided to extend Erickson’s term and adjust their program accordingly for future hopefuls, a decision welcomed by many who were impressed by Erickson’s initiatives. When the National Finals Rodeo made a one-year move to Arlington, TX, Erickson did a tremendous amount of work investigating COVID protocols, quarantine and travel requirements to enable her trip there. She shared results, profiles and stories of Canadians at the NFR, plus made valuable connections. Those came in handy when she made a well-researched and thoughtout pitch to visit some more U.S. rodeos in the spring. Erickson spent April working rodeos in six U.S. states from coast to coast, proudly carrying the Maple Leaf and representing the contestants and stock. “I feel pretty lucky to have been granted those opportunities and proud to have represented Canada,” says Erickson, who raised awareness among Americans rodeo would rise again in Canada. The extension of her Miss Rodeo Canada term did mean a pause on career plans for Erickson. She already has a Justice Studies Diploma, and the plan is to get a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. The delay hasn’t diminished her desire to focus on young people but may have shaped it. “I want to be involved with the youth of our world, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t involve equine, youth, rodeo, mental health all as a whole; I just have to figure out how I’m going to do it.” 43
Pro Rodeo Canada Insider
“I do love communications, and I can’t believe how much being Miss Rodeo Canada has changed my comfort zone and my confidence with things like reporting and being on a video and interviewing people. It used to make me nervous, but now that I’ve gotten to know the sport and the people better, it excites me,” says Alicia. “I love hearing rodeo’s story from the people behind it. I absolutely love sharing that with people because it just makes others fall in love with the same sport I love. I do see that somehow fitting into my life and my future career. I can’t just do all these things for two years and then leave the sport behind that has helped me become the person I am. I’m going to stay involved and help the sport in some way.” There were also financial implications to an extra year of volunteer work. Again, Erickson was prepared, having saved up for her year, working full-time during the pandemic, and part-time around her schedule. “I get ‘paid’ a million dollars worth of opportunities, but not cash. So it’s always a thought in the back of my mind I can’t just be spending money. I don’t have it to spend. I have to be strategic with planning, spending and where I go.” While the pandemic did dramatically affect Erickson’s world, she’s acutely aware of the very serious impact it had on places that hold rodeos. 44
“I’ve seen behind the scenes how our rodeo community has struggled, how they’ve really had to pull together in these adverse times.” Erickson has done her part to help out, shining the spotlight on some people and roles not always visible, but still so important, to the sport’s wellbeing. When she arrived at rodeos, Erickson sought out committee volunteers to find places where she could be of most use, whether it was catching loose horses on the track or singing the national anthem. She spent time interacting with volunteers, learning the history of the events, and sharing those stories on her posts. That may well be part of the legacy she leaves from her historic double-time in the position. “I’m really going to stress to the next girl that you can’t take for granted any of these rodeos you attend. Each one of them is different, and each one of them and their committees brings different things to the table. You have to treat each event with respect and work equally as hard at every single one of them.” Erickson has taken a professional approach before each rodeo. She does her homework, researching athletes, stock, and rodeo schedules. She has filled up the storage space on nearly two phones with her notes, pictures and posts. What a contrast she’s experienced — from having to create opportunities to talk
about rodeo to a sprint to the finish line that’s been more intense with rodeo bookings than ever before. “It’s been a juggle; it really has,” she admits. “But it’s teaching me to multi-task very, very well, and priorities!” A highlight is seeing Canadian rodeo fans so excited about the sport’s return. Like at Strathmore, where a huge crowd enthusiastically joined Erickson as she sang the national anthem. “People were singing at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t even hear myself on the microphone. They were screaming out things like ‘I love Canada!’ — the pride and the shivers it gave me! It was just a moment of resilience, a moment of love for our sport, province, and country. It makes you go home at night and be grateful for all that we have, and strive to continue to have in the future with our sport.” “I would never have dreamt this is how my reign as Miss Rodeo Canada would be,” she said. “But we’re all put in different situations for a reason. I believe that for some reason, I was the lucky one chosen to be Miss Rodeo Canada for two years. While I may be putting many other things in my life on hold, I serve a purpose. I won this title, and I’m going to serve it out to the best of my abilities. I know great things are coming from it. I’ve learned so much, and it doesn’t feel like work when you love every minute of it.” c
Canadian Cowboy Country October/November 2021
Dylan Bilton got the ride of his life at Sundre Pro Rodeo when he nodded for 118 OLS Tubs Stevie Knicks from Macza Pro Rodeo string. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.
ROAD TO THE CFR
BILTON & JONES BACK ON THE TRAIL By TIM ELLIS
AREBACK RIDER DYLAN BILTON HAS FLIRTED WITH QUALIFYING FOR THE CANADIAN FINALS
RODEO ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. WITH RELAXED QUALIFYING RESTRICTIONS AND A RETURN TO FULL HEALTH, BILTON MAY FINALLY BE READY TO BOOK A DATE FOR THE FINALS IN 2021.
“Making the CFR is the goal,” confirms the 29-year-old, who finished one spot out of qualifying for the 2017 Canadian Finals, “I’ve got a good a chance with a short season, just need to stay strong and healthy.” It’s been the latter that has eluded the Innisfail, Alta., cowboy for the past few seasons. Bilton broke his foot during the 2018 campaign leading to his worst finish in the Pro Rodeo Canada standings since taking out his pro card in 2014. Then in 2019, his season ended prematurely with some startling news.
“The left side of my body kept going numb when I’d get hit in the back,” reveals Bilton. “I went to (Canadian Pro Rodeo) Sport Medicine five or six times before they sent me to a specialist in Calgary.” “They asked me how long I’d had a broken neck. I told them that was news to me. I went back to Sport Medicine, and they found out it was a repetitive injury caused by my neck brace.” Bilton used the extra time off during the COVID break in 2020 to rest up, switch braces and strengthen his neck with an eye on returning this season. “I didn’t have the itch during COVID to compete,” says the 2012 Foothills Cowboys Association champion. “I took some time off from rodeo to work and spend time with my family and then started entering again this season.” The return was successful. By midAugust, Bilton was 10th in the Pro Rodeo Canada bareback standings, with the biggest highlight coming in Sundre. He was 87 points on the reigning CPRA Bareback Horse of the Year, Stevie Knicks, from Macza Pro Rodeo to win the rodeo. “I’d never been on her before,” said an overjoyed Bilton just minutes after the ride back in early August. “I talked with Jake Vold, and he said she would be one of the coolest horses I’d ever get on.” Fellow bareback rider Strawbs Jones was hoping to join Bilton as first time CFR qualifiers. The Australian native had the standings lead in August. “I was finishing third everywhere until I won in Lea Park,” offers Jones on the start to his 2021 campaign. “I planned to enter every rodeo I could this season.” He first arrived in Canada some six years ago on a working holiday Visa to compete on the semi-pro circuit. His hope of returning was interrupted because of a serious knee injury. After gaining permanent residency, his pro career was interrupted again last year by COVID restrictions. “The knee is feeling really good,” offers Jones, who lists Duffield, Alta., as his home base. “It’s really good to be back on the trail.” c 45
Pro Rodeo Canada Insider
FAREWELL! MISS RODEO CANADA ALICIA ERICKSON
hen I won the title of Miss Rodeo Canada, I had a picture in my head of what I thought my reign would look like. When one year turned into two, and the state of our world kept changing, I quickly learnt to “drop the reins” and have trust in serving my purpose in this role.
People often ask me if I feel like I got the short end of the stick with being MRC throughout a pandemic, but honestly, I am thankful. I was chosen to represent our country and Canadian rodeo athletes from the slopes of Colorado to the first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Arlington, Texas, from St. Cloud Florida across the United States to Red Bluff, California, along with being the first Miss Rodeo Canada to make her mark in Guymon Colorado, and Reno, Nevada. I’ve sung the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada on national television and in over 20 different rodeo arenas. You see, when faced with challenges, it made me work ten times harder to overcome them, continuing to move forward, always finding a way to share rodeo’s story and support our athletes. Resiliency and dedication — that’s how I would describe the 2021 CPRA season. The sponsors, committees, fans, athletes, and
personnel aren’t letting anything stop our sport from persevering through. When I start a task, I see it through to the end, leaving my mark as the first Miss Rodeo Canada to serve a two-year term. Thank you, Alicia Erickson - Miss Rodeo Canada 20/21
NAOMI AKKERMANS JAYDEN CALVERT
Naomi Akkermans is a 23-year-old Ponokaborn cowgirl making her lifelong dream come true as Miss Ponoka Stampede. When she isn’t on the rodeo trail, Naomi is the general leader of the East Ponoka 4-H Beef Club and uses her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from the University of Lethbridge to teach sixth grade. She longs to build a classroom that integrates agriculture and knowledge about food production into everyday learning. Naomi loves to use her formal education and passion to connect with others and believes that only through connection can learning take place.
Rayelle Smith of Medicine Hat, Alta., is a 21-year-old cowgirl who is currently in her fourth year of a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. Upon completing her degree, Rayelle plans to attend medical school and achieve a medical degree specializing in surgery. In 2019, Rayelle was crowned Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede Queen. During her time there, Rayelle thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent volunteering at senior homes, school visits, and non-profit organizations. Not only did Rayelle enjoy volunteering during her reign, but she also had the opportunity to work at FL Ranch riding colts.
Jayden Calvert is a 22-year-old cowgirl from Drayton Valley, Alta. She calls the MT Bar Ranch home. Her family raises purebred, and Speckle Park influenced cattle. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree with a major in Animal Science. At the U of A, she was an active member in the Agriculture Club, the Livestock Judging Club and the CERES Alberta Women’s Fraternity for women with an appreciation of agriculture and the rural way of life. Currently, Jayden is employed at Bow Valley Genetics near Brooks, Alta.
Canadian Cowboy Country October/November 2021