Rodeo fans will turn the dial-up for the 52nd consecutive year in just three short weeks for the annual Lions Labour Day Rodeo weekend, which runs Sept. 1 to 3.
Thousands will spill through the gates at Lions Rodeo Grounds to take in the semi-pro, Foothill Cowboy Association (FCA)-sanctioned event which wraps up rodeo season full tilt.
“This year we are dual-approved with every provincial association – which will bring in the top riders from across the province,” explained Lions Rodeo co-chair Kevin Firkus; this includes the Chinook, Lakeland and Wildrose Rodeo associations.
Spectators will take in all the entertainment and sport from the comfort of the brand new bleachers, in addition to a new concession area. This construction began in mid-July and wraps up this week with the help of local contractors and the sweat equity of Lions volunteers and anonymous donors for a total price tag of around $60,000.
“We really needed to put some infrastructure into the grounds, so we did our bleachers and our concession,” said Firkus, adding both were in dire need of replacement.
The bleacher seating capacity has doubled, now able to accommodate some 1,200 spectators.
Friday evening, the Slimdor Ranch Rodeo will kick off the long weekend at 4 p.m. with free entry to the grounds.
Beginning at noon on Saturday through to Monday evening, rodeo central will be blazing with competitors sporting spurs and hats to dazzle crowds with western fun – including the always popular mutton busting and wild pony races.
“We have a new event this year – ranch saddle bronc riding – it’s real wild and woolly,” laughed Firkus, explaining that retro-dressed blokes will board their broncs in old-fashioned fun – sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Trade in those subdued hues and bring out the pink on Sunday in support of Tough Enough to Wear Pink – a nationally-recognized campaign bringing awareness to breast cancer and in honour of some of the Lions’ own lost to the disease over the last year.
Monday is a call for red shirts – a symbol of support for military and veterans.
Country rockers TC & Company will play late into the night on the Saturday at the grounds and food trucks, beer gardens and concession will be in full swing to serve the nosh needs of hungry crowds.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for seniors and those between ages 12 to 17 years; children 12 and under are free. Last year, 15,000 people went through the gates compared to 3,900 five years ago.
Over the last five years, the Cochrane Lions Club has put more than $1.2 million back into the community. This does not include the funds raised through their partnership with the Rotary Club through the Bow RiversEdge Campground.
The 50-year lease of the rodeo grounds by the Lions Club is up for renewal in the fall of 2019. The results of the town-funded Tri-Site Concept Plan – exploring public spaces in town, including the rodeo grounds, for future expansion and inclusion of the Lions, seniors and youth clubs; visit letstalkcochrane.ca to have your say.
Following the results of the public engagement this summer, the Lions will have a firm idea of whether or not to continue in their current location or to look to other options, including a possible relocation.
Mayor Jeff Genung has gone on record expressing a desire to see the rodeo grounds remain where they are.
The Lions are on the hunt for new members to the club, as well as volunteers for the Labour Day rodeo weekend. Interested parties can contact Lion Mark Demeo at 403-471-0308.