Stettler Rodeo the Real Deal

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Laura England

If you’re looking for an authentic Alberta experience, here’s what I’d suggest; from Edmonton, take Highway 21 south, turn left at Highway 609, then right at Highway 56. Stop when you reach Stettler, and head straight for the Steel Wheel Stampede. This is the real deal folks.

Named as a salute to the famed railroad excursion, the Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede is two days of bull bustin’, calf ropin’ and horse buckin’ good times. As my husband Boyd and I pulled into the Stettler Exhibition Grounds, parking attendants on horseback guided our Smart Car to a stall and we knew two things immediately – these was a real rodeo, and not many Smart Cars had passed by this way.


Stettler native Shane Hogan gets ready to reel ‘em in
Photo Courtesey of Boyd England

Once through the gates, we received the VIP treatment from Stacey Benjamin, secretary for the organizing committee. She took us straight to the head honcho, Jerry Sinclair to give us the inside scoop on this event. Sinclair’s been with the Stettler rodeo since its inception four years ago. “With an entry fee of $100 and a $2000 cash prize for each event, it’s a pretty good payoff,” explained Sinclair.

At this point, a passerby informed us that we were actually speaking with a Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Famer and winner of countless awards including CPRA Rookie of the Year in 1970. From then on we called him Mr. Modest.


The rodeo legend himself, Jerry Sinclair, aka Mr. Modest
Photo Courtesey of Boyd England

“Helping out with this event is a great way to give back to an organization that’s given so much to me,” stated Sinclair. “It’s also a great for this community.”

That was clearly evident as the rodeo got underway and the crowd cheered the Ladies of the Heartland as the team maneuvered their horses in a complex galloping routine.

The day continued on with eight events in total including saddle and bareback bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, tie down roping and team roping. The enthusiastic crowd saved the biggest cheers for their hometown heroes including Riley Warren, who went on to become the tie down roping champ.

Rodeos wouldn’t be complete, or as safe, without a clown and I was very honoured to speak with Steel Wheel Rodeo clown, Tyson Wagner. “I just enjoy being at rodeos and I love pleasing the crowd,” explained Wagner. “I used to be a bit more daring when I was fighting bulls, but now, as a clown, I can stay back a bit more.” Wagner’s got two very important reasons for staying as safe as he possibly can – his kids, which he managed to work into his half-time show for the first time ever.


Seriously folks, this guy’s a hero - Rodeo clown Tyson Wagner
Photo Courtesey of Boyd England

Wagner’s very good at helping out riders but he’s also very good at entertaining. The comedy routine between him and announcer Tim Huss keep the crowd in stitches during a brief mechanical issue with a gate. Wagner saved the best of his jabs for the nearby town of Macklin.

Leaving Stettler, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more Albertan. This is our heritage and our history and small town rodeos like the one in Stettler feature real cowboys, just doing what comes naturally. Take the route I suggested – you’ll go through some of the prettiest countryside this province has to offer and when you reach your destination, you’ll get a heavy dose of the central Alberta way of life.