Rodeo guys and gals are the original ‘get the job done’ people, the ultimate cool cats. So it’s not surprising that a new generation of fans - hipsters and artists - are discovering the appeal of the rodeo. Winnipeg artist Leala Hewak recently published a photography book, “Western Living” on the Eriksdale, Manitoba Creamery Days and Rodeo. She says, “Country rodeos are one of the showpieces of traditional Western Canadian rural culture. For us as artists it’s a chance to see something very real.” Others say it’s fun to see the crowds swoon over the rodeo riders, celebrities in their world, hee haw over tiedown races, and watch fashionistas whoop over clothes that raise these good time gatherings to the realm of a fashion event. But rodeos are family friendly, too. Just check out the eager kids busting sheep.
The Big M
The Manitoba Stampede & Exhibition is Manitoba’s only pro-rodeo event and the largest professional rodeo east of Calgary. “The Big M”, as it’s called, gallops into the Town of Morris, 51 kms south of Winnipeg from July 16 -19, 2015. Each year it draws about 25,000 visitors, many who come straight from the preceding Calgary Stampede. Rugged, young rhinestone cowboys strut the grounds brandishing hand-stitched, embroidered or beaded rodeo shirts and belt buckles that hurt the eyes. Activities abound, from chuck wagon racing to kids pedal tractor pull. Some of the top names in bull riding, bronco-busting, bareback riding, ladies barrel racing, and team roping are among those you’ll mingle with.
Ever heard of Big Roy? You will after a visit to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum three kms south of the Trans-Canada Highway near Austin. Big Roy is a one-of-a-kind, big as a small house, 600 horsepower Versatile tractor that has drawn visitors from as far away as Switzerland and Australia. The chance to drive this machine is a highlight of the Manitoba Thresherman’s Reunion & Stampede, July 23-26, which is held on the museum’s grounds. (It’s also the place to get cult Big Roy items like t-shirts and caps from the museum gift shop.) This celebration of small-town agricultural heritage combines a turn-of-the-century Homesteaders’ Village with all the whoops and hollers of a good old-fashioned rodeo hootenanny. Ben Hur-style chariot races, complete with Roman costumes and chariots, and other cowboy fun are on the schedule. By day, tunes are a backdrop to the tiedowns; at night, the party moves to the beer gardens and goes on till the early hours with live Manitoba bands.
There’s no horsing around for the top 70 amateur cowboys who come from across North America to compete in bareback and bull riding at the Wheat City Stampede and Manitoba Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo in Brandon, Manitoba’s second largest city after Winnipeg, October 22-25. The tussles between cowboys and bucking broncos or cowgirls and wild steers is a highlight of this rodeo which, like the others mentioned here, show off Manitoba at its wildest, wooliest best.
Eriksdale, an agricultural town 118 km north of Winnipeg on the eastern shores of Lake Manitoba, has had a love affair with horses for years. It was a natural fit then, for the town that celebrates everything dairy, to team up with its equestrian society to create Eriksdale Creamery Days and Rodeo held in August. The get-together kicks off with a tractor pull and ends with some fine rodeo team roping, and bronco and bull riding. While not the flashiest of rodeos, it is definitely endearing for its ample helpings of small town charm. What’s more, in between rodeo thrills, you can learn to churn butter, then sample it.