Rodeo contestants come from miles away to take part in the Ponoka Stampede – places like Winnemuca, Nevada; Collbran, Colorado; or Sour Lake, Texas.
But in the third performance of the 82nd Stampede, it was the competitors from the ‘hood that did some turf protecting.
Ponoka’s own Wacey Finkbeiner brought the house down when he played ‘dominate for eight’ on board the Vold bull Blow Me Away, for a big 88 score and the lead in the bull riding.
“It worked out real good,” beamed the 25-year-old. “That’s actually the bull of Nansen’s I rode here last year in the twelve round. I think I was 88 and a half on him there, so I’ve got a pretty good relationship with that big longhorn, that’s for sure.”
Needless to say, Finkbeiner was more than a little pumped to find out he drew his neighbor’s calf for the big show.
“I was actually shopping for groceries in Walmart with my girlfriend and I looked on my phone,” he chuckled, remembering when he got the news. “I may have let out a whoop and a holler in the middle of the aisle and scared an older couple. Safe to say, I was pretty excited.”
“He’s such a big bull it takes him a couple rounds to really get wound up. He’s like an old diesel, he’s just got to get warmed up and then he’s good to go. I couldn’t have asked for a better one here today, especially at the hometowner. I’ll have to buy the old bugger some grain or something because he’s been winning me a lot of money!”
It wasn’t only the stands where the applause erupted when the whistle blew on his ride. Finkbeiner had plenty of cheerleaders behind the chutes as well, celebrating his success.
“Oh, it’s pretty special. I’ve got a lot of friends and family here. I used to not like the added pressure here when I was younger. But I’ve matured quite a bit and I feel like I can handle it and thrive on it more now.”
“That’s the reason why a guy rides bulls, for days like today.”
Coming into the performance there had only been two qualified bull rides. But Wednesday’s pedigreed crew doubled that number, including Jared Parsonage of Maple Creek, SK who was 87.25 points to sit second place now.
Another hometown favorite showed his stuff in the steer wrestling. Craig Weisgerber made a solid 6.1 second run in the morning slack. But he managed to follow that up with a rapid 4.9 seconds in the performance, to speed up the leaderboard, topping it with 11 seconds flat.
“Man, I was planning on making two good runs today, and let it fall where it would,” commented Weisgerber. “Just trying to get back was all I wanted. The rest was gravy.”
“There’s a lot of variables here with this big long score. Little things turn into big things out there, and that’s just how she goes sometimes. You’ve gotta be good, and you’ve gotta cowboy.”
The outcome of Wednesday does mean the cowboy will have to adjust his weekend travel schedule.
“I was supposed to go to Williams Lake on Monday, so not a bad reason not to go. I’ll just have a shorter Cowboy Christmas, I guess. Nothing wrong with Williams Lake, but this is a pretty good reason – to be at your hometown showdown.”
Weisgerber admits he hasn’t had a ton of homefield advantage in the past.
“I made the short round down here one time, and I had no luck. So here, let’s change history!”
Moving into second in the overall standings was Blake Knowles of Oregon, who posted 13.9 seconds on his pair of runs.
The tie-down roping leaderboard got shuffled around, with a couple of locals muscling their way to the top. Clayton Smith, who calls Eckville home, made a tidy 8.7 second run to go along with the 9.2 he posted in slack, to sit first with a 17.9 second total.
“It’s awesome just to come here and rope for any amount of money, let alone do good. So it’s pretty fun every time, no matter what,” grinned the lanky 21-year-old.
It’s his third year down the long score set up.
“I don’t know if it gets any easier, but it’s always just as fun as it was the first time. It’s a blast.”
“My first year here, I had no idea what I was doing. I think I was laughing going down the alley, but I ended up making it back, and I made it to the Showdown round. I was only 18 at the time.”
There was also thunder rolling in the stands for fellow roper Dean Edge of Rimbey, as he put together two runs in 19.3 seconds to slide into second place overall.
Throw four new names at the top end of the team roping standings. Riding a wave of success after winning Wainwright, Tristin Woolsey of Nanton and Denver Johnson of Strathmore rolled into Ponoka and caught a pair of steers in just 12.6 seconds, to take over first. They’re now followed by Clint Buhler of Okotoks and Tyrel Flewelling of Lacombe, with their 14.6 second total.
Bareback rider Ky Marshall also had a short journey to Ponoka from his Bowden home. The All-Around champion of Canada had the best ride of the day, moving into a tie for third by marking 84.5 points on Vold’s Sheer Ice. JR Vezain remains the leader with his 86.5 point ride. The top saddle bronc mark of the afternoon came from Kolby Wanchuk of Sherwood Park. His 81 on Another Brother has him ninth, behind leader Sterling Crawley, with 85.75. Rebecca Miller came from Dalemead to secure fifth spot in the barrel racing by making a run in 17.769 seconds. Texan Stevi Hillman holds on to first with her 17.560. Dusty Golden of Mayerthorpe made an impressive one-handed steer ride to rack up 80.75 points, to lead in that event.