A wild west RAM Rodeo
WHITEWATER REGION – It was the closest thing to the Calgary Stampede that area residents are likely to see.
The RAM Rodeo Tour returned to the Beachburg Fair for the third time over the weekend with crowds thrilled by some of the best in cowboy roping, cattle wrestling, calf tying, bareback and bronc riding, pole and barrel racing and bull riding. The event saw 240 riders hailing from Canada and the U.S. with Pembroke's Hal Blackmore competing in the tie-down roping challenge.
Ross Millar, producer of the RAM Rodeo Tour, said the Beachburg Fair has such a good reputation that many of the competitors show up a few days in advance of the rodeo.
“They were all going fishing and whitewater rafting,” said Millar. “This is great country.”
Now in its 20th season, the RAM Rodeo Tour was created to showcase rodeo while raising needed funds for community projects. The tour, sanctioned by the Quebec Rodeo Association and the Canadian Cowboy Association, gives competitors the chance to be at more events, earning cash prizes and points, the latter used to qualify then for national competitions.
Many of these sports, including bareback, bronc riding and bull riding, are growing in popularity. Recently, the American Riders Association voted bull riding the world's toughest sport.
“We all say it's the original extreme sport,” added Millar. “There's some excitement.”
On Saturday, folks took in some sheer displays of endurance by cowboys engaging in saddle bronc riding, a discipline which has been called the classic event of rodeo. It involves strength, timing and technique as the cowboy attempts to ride the bucking Bronc for eight seconds, holding onto only a thick reign attached to the horse’s halter. He can only use one hand to work the reign and to help keep him on the saddle as he spurs the horse and tries to time his movements with the bronc’s bucking in order to score high points.
One of the many American riders here was Justin Thigpen, from Waycross, Georgia. In 2016, he was crowned world champion All Around Cowboy and International Tie-down roping world champion by the International Professional Rodeo Association.
“This is a good rodeo,” said Thigpen. “The fans are always good and there's a lot of action here.”
Thigpen's father rode bulls, while his mother was a barrel racer. With his bull dogging horse “Ty,” Thigpen has been competing in the eastern Canada circuit in recent weeks.
“I was just born into it,” he added. “What is it about this sport that I don't like.”
The RAM Rodeo continues throughout the summer with stops around Ontario before wrapping up with the final show in September.