The sixth annual Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede gave locals and visitors plenty of reasons to stand up, stomp their boots and cheer this weekend.
The three-day weekend was packed with events, from the competitions, parade and rib cook-off to Emerson Drive’s much-anticipated concert at the Exhibition Grounds.
Stacey Benjamin, manager of the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development, said the events attracted lots of guests to town, including the rodeo competitors themselves, who traveled from across three provinces to attend.
“They travel all over Canada to compete,” she said. “To get them in Stettler for our rodeo is quite an honour.”
Benjamin said local businesses and the downtown area were packed with people throughout the weekend. She also observed lots of “vibrant” community support and strong attendance for the events.
Stampede committee chair Tana Nixon said there was a terrific response to many of the events, including the Emerson Drive concert and Saturday’s rodeo performance.
Saturday night also saw the stampede offer its largest 50/50 jackpot ever; Nixon cited this as evidence of the community’s growing support for the stampede. The $745 cash prize went to Teela Lynn.
The long weekend began Friday with a community barbecue at ATB Financial. The Legion Hall in Stettler also opened up for the afternoon, featuring karaoke and dancing.
Friday’s main event was hosted at the exhibition grounds by True Grit Mounted Shooters, featuring pistol and rifle shooters from Stettler, Crossfield, Blackie, Carstairs and Ponoka. Four younger riders were featured prior to the main event, including 4-year-old Mackenzey Marshall of Stettler.
A free pancake breakfast was held on Main Street on Saturday morning, hosted by the Downtown Business Association. Flapjacks, sausages, potato and egg casserole and drinks were offered; the line started at Brenda’s Cozy Café and stretched to the end of the block for the better part of two hours.
“It was just crazy,” said president Andrea Hatch. “At 10 o’clock we ran out of sausages, and we had enough for 400 people.”
The stampede parade left West Stettler Park around 11 a.m. and headed downtown, ending at the exhibition grounds.
Benjamin estimated there were between 30 and 40 floats. Darrell Cholach led off the parade as honourary marshal; many local businesses, organizations and families also took part.
Back at the exhibition grounds, crowds lined up to try the offerings at the rib cook-off organized by the board of trade. Four competitors were featured.
Stettler Veterinary Clinic took the award for best ribs; GT Hydraulic and Bearing was voted best sauce, while the Stettler County Housing Authority was voted best overall rib experience.
Vintage tractors were on display throughout the weekend at the Agriplex, courtesy of the Antique Tractor Club, while an obstacle course for riders was also in operation on the exhibition grounds.
Emerson Drive performed on the grounds Saturday night, playing on a stage built into a semi truck. The group thrilled the audience with a 19-song set that included hits like “Moments” and “She’s My Kind of Crazy.”
Lead singer Brad Mates entertained the crowd with a tale of toilet training gone awry, and also tricked the audience into singing “Happy Birthday” for guitarist Danick Dupelle, despite it not being his birthday.
Sunday began with a second pancake breakfast. Heartland Cowboy Church hosted a service at the Agriplex, featuring gospel music by Fred and Shirley Dobirstein of Lacombe, and a message by pastor Don Wudel.
The weekend concluded with Sunday afternoon’s rodeo performance.
Nixon told the Independent that the stampede committee is looking for new members to help organize next year’s events. Anyone interested in joining is asked to contact the board of trade.