After 60 years of bringing rodeo to Lea Park, Alta., it didn’t seem like the Lea Park Rodeo could get any bigger. But the 61st year looks to be the biggest yet, as more than $100,000 is up for grabs across all the rodeo events, and this year marks the first time Lea Park has been part of the Wrangler Canadian Professional Rodeo Tour.
And when you are the fifth biggest rodeo in Canada, aiming to be bigger and better each year is not out of the question, considering the people involved understand their program extreme well.
“It’s still a lot of work but we know our program pretty good,” said Lloyd Grey, president of the Lea Park Rodeo. “It’s a big thing in the community. It’s good for the businesses, good for the people and a lot of money gets spent in the community because of the rodeo.”
Lea Park is now the second stop on the Wrangle Canadian Tour, right after the Grande Prairie show and just before the show in Wainwright and Ponoka, which has generally been the setup show for the Calgary Stampede.
“You have to have a certain amount of money for prize money before you can be a part of the tour,” said Grey. “Going by prize money, we are the fifth biggest rodeo in Canada. It just means we are getting bigger and better every year when you can put the program together to be a part of that tour.”
The sky is the limit, said Grey about how big Lea Park can get as a rodeo event. This year they will have shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with rodeo performances at 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and two performances on Sunday at 1 and 5:30 p.m. Like every year the rodeo will feature events such as bareback, bull and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, and ladies barrel racing.
Lea Park has a history of bringing in some of the top rodeo performers in to compete, and this year is no exception. Two-time Calgary Stampede champion in saddle bronc riding Wade Sundell, 2013 World tie-down roping champion, Shane Hanchey, and 2012 World champion barrel racer, Mary Walker.
The rodeo has ran consecutively for 61 years and with their new place on the Wrangler Canadian Professional Tour, slowing down doesn’t seem to be in their future.