The Whitecourt Woodlands Rodeo took over the Eagle River Casino rodeo grounds at the Westward Hall on Aug. 21 and 22. The weekend event put on by the Whitecourt & District Agricultural Society was a welcomed scene for both participants and the audience.

Society president Malcolm Heaven said it was about time.

“Our usual time for the rodeo is the third week of June, but this year, since nobody knew what was happening with COVID, we had to cancel that. Then the WRA (Wildrose Rodeo Association) came up with this date for us in August, and we said yup and jumped at it.”

Spectator excited to see chuckwagons or pro bulls were likely saddened to see them not on the schedule, but Heaven said there was a reasons for that.

“The chuckwagons weren’t ready. A lot of them haven’t been racing all year. It’s a money thing too because it costs a lot of money to get the wagons to come here, and we just didn’t have the time to raise that kind of money this year.”

He said it was the same with the pro bulls.

“That’s another big cost for us, and we just didn’t have that in our budget. We decided to go with the rodeo so that everybody would get a little piece of the action.”

Heaven said that every person was happy to get back into the swing of things.

“Over the last two years, they haven’t done anything and trying to get into the CFR has been really tough on them. We thought we would give them an opportunity to make some points up for this year’s CFR.”

Heaven said that the Canadian Finals Rodeo is points based and without the opportunities to compete, riders cannot build up what they need.

“They need points to make it, and this is how they earn those points.”

He went on to say that the cowboys and cowgirls were pumped when they heard they could compete at the Whitecourt Woodlands Rodeo this year.

“It was a good response. People were quite excited about it. We were one of the first rodeos in this area to get going, and then others filled in the schedule after us. Some of their rodeos weren’t planned until July or August, so they got to keep their plans in place when we had to cancel ours. But it worked out.”

This year’s event marks 12 years of action at the Ag. Society grounds since the move out of Whitecourt.

“We are so excited to get everybody out here, and we hope they are happy and that that they have fun,” added Heaven.

For local cowboy Tyson Schmidt, the weekend was an opportunity to compete in front of friends and family. He has been riding bulls for around 2 years.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be part of the rodeo community. Everyone’s got your back, and it’s a great team.”

Schmidt had a fantastic ride which included an epic landing after the bull successfully bucked off his rider.

“I think it was one of my best rides. I can’t complain!”

For most people, finding the courage to tie themselves to a large bull and for a wild ride is like an impossible feat, however, Schmidt and his fellow riders appear to do it with ease.

“Bull riding is more of a mental game. It takes a lot. It’s easy to get your hand in that rope, but it takes a long time to nod your head.”

That nod of the head shows rodeo attendees that the rider is ready for the gate to open. That is when the rider needs to focus and do everything possible to stay on as long as possible.

“The moment right before you nod, anything can happen. It’s pure adrenaline.”

Schmidt said it takes around 1 hour for that huge wave of adrenaline to come down. Speak about a rush!