Red Deer is still feeling the glow after hosting its first-ever Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) last week.
An estimated 43 thousand spectators crammed into Centrium at Westerner Park over the course of the rodeo to watch saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling and bull riding. Prior to this year, one of Canada’s highest paying rodeos was hosted at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton for 44 years.
Despite moving to a smaller venue with less seating, fewer concessions and fewer hotel options, rodeo fans appeared mostly happy to have the CFR in a more central location.
Kerri Towers, a local from Red Deer, has been attending the rodeo for over 20 years. She says it’s easier not having to travel, but as with all things new, there are some things organizers can work on for next year.
“They have a few kinks that they have to work out, but I think it’s running very smoothly,” says Towers.
One thing she mentioned that could be improved is educating the crowd about common courtesy during the performance. Waiting for a break in the event to leave your seat is important for many sports. In hockey, most fans wait until the whistle blows before moving so that they aren’t blocking the view of others.
When the rodeo was at Northlands, ushers stopped fans from moving to and from their seats during events. The Centrium seems to take a more relaxed approach when it comes to spectators moving around.
“When there’s actually something happening in the arena, they don’t need to be walking down the stairs in front of people,” explained Towers.
Al Mah owns one of the Wei’s Western Wear locations in Red Deer. The family business has been around for 60 years and Mah’s location, along Gaetz Avenue, has been operational for 25 years.
“There are a lot of out of town people who’ve come in that have never been in the store before,” says Mah. “We’re going through a lot of denim. Jeans are our bestseller.”
Mah says that when the CFR was in Edmonton they would get some residual business, but now that it’s in Red Deer, it’s something they’ve never experienced before. “We brought in a little extra inventory to cover the masses, but it’s our first kick of the cat,” says Mah. “Next year we’ll know what to expect.”
Both the change in venue and the influx of people in Red Deer are things that will take some getting used to.
Five-time Canadian steer wrestling champion Cody Cassidy says, “There’s going to be some growing pains the first few years.”
The six-day event came to a close on Nov. 4 when eight Canadian champions were presented with their buckles and saddles.
- By Brittany Willsie