The sun was intense, and so were the Alberta cowboys during the first day of Calgary Stampede 2015.
Jake Vold got the momentum rolling when he turned in a flashy 89 point bareback ride. It came courtesy a C5 horse by the name of City Sites.
“I didn’t really know what he was,” confessed Vold. “I’d seen him in Sundre, and Jess Davis got a good cheque on him there.”
The Canadian Champion had a little extra motivation to make his spurs fly in Friday’s first performance of Pool A contestants. Just two days earlier, Vold had been bucked to the ground, and hard, by the Calgary Stampede horse Special Delivery. It was a costly mistake because the combination was a favorite to win the lucrative Ponoka Stampede Showdown round.
“I was pretty ticked off from the other night in Ponoka. I just had to cool down again, get grounded and try to go out and make a good, solid ride today.”
“Going through the middle there, it felt pretty wicked,” he grinned.
“I honestly don’t really know what happened at Ponoka. I had a game plan in mind and it just totally went out the door right off the get go. But I’ve been on that Special Delivery three times now, and I got him good the first two, so I figured he just owed me one anyways!”
“Hopefully, I’ll draw him again here later on this week.”
After a slower spring, Vold has been having one of the best Junes of his career, cashing in for some $20,000 over the last few weekends. He’ll potentially add another $5500 for the Stampede first go-round win to the pot, but the bareback results aren’t finalized yet, with one more re-ride to be taken during the second performance.
Tanner Milan is another cowboy as hot as the temperatures this summer. The Cochrane competitor was the first Pool A steer wrestler to nod his head Friday, and he set a rapid pace by getting his animal to the ground in just 3.6 seconds. No one was able to beat that, so he collected the $5500 and bronze for first place.
“That was excellent. You can’t ask for a better way to start off day one of Stampede,” bubbled the two-time Canadian champion. “Ever since I was little, I’ve looked up to the guys competing here at the Stampede. It’s one of the best rodeos in the world.”
Milan first started coming to Calgary as just a youngster, watching his father Murray competing. He and his bulldogging brothers Baillie and Straws, the 2011 Calgary champion, got an early start on their Stampede ambitions in the backstretch.
“I remember burning around here, tearing stuff up. We used to have a lot of fun. We’d steal Dad’s back number, and it’d be a fight who got to wear it,” he chuckled. “We’d be out playing rodeo, and thinking that we were in the Finals here, and winning it.”
Times have changed, and Dad’s cheering from the sidelines as the boys compete now. But the dream of being on stage on Showdown Sunday has only intensified for Tanner Milan.
“That’s what we’re here for. It would darn sure be a big checkmark off my bucket list.”
Speaking of fathers and sons, it’s a treat to see Cody and Rusty Wright compete in the saddle bronc riding. Cody, who’s 38, is a Stampede veteran, but his son Rusty, who’s 19, is making his first appearance in the open competition. He won the novice title in 2013. But it was Pops who showed Junior a thing or two Friday, turning in an 85 on Witless Margie.
However Wright had to share the top purse with Alberta rider Jim Berry. He matched that 85 tally on a horse called Maiden Chick, meaning both earned $5000.
“This is the greatest rodeo there is,” insisted Berry. “It’s fantastic to be here. This is my first go-round win. I’ve been second a couple times, but to be able to win a go-round here is pretty unbelievable.”
Berry is no stranger to Stampede trophies. He’s won the Novice Saddle Bronc, Guy Weadick award, and even the Wild Horse Race. But he’d dearly love to capture the one that’s eluded him so far – the saddle bronc riding bronze.
There was also a tie for first in the tie-down roping event, when a pair of Oklahoma cowboys showed their stuff. Hunter Herrin (Apache) and Ryan Jarrett (Comanche) both roped their calves in seven seconds flat, to earn $5000 each. Texan Mike Lee topped a strong bull riding section when he and Moe teamed up for an 87 point performance, for a first $5500 deposit in Lee’s 2015 Stampede bank account.
Colorful Fallon Taylor delighted her legions of supporters when she and Baby Flo raced around the pattern in a sizzling 17.65 to take the biggest cheque ($5500) in the barrel racing event. Dressed in a blazing orange outfit selected by her fans, she also became the first barrel racer to wear a helmet while competing, giving her extra protection for a past head injury.
Cassian Haudegand of Cadogan leads the novice bareback riding with a 69.5.