Const. Sean LaBrie just laughs when it’s suggested the Calgary Police Rodeo is arguably the most amateur rodeo in existence.
“That would be about right,” said LaBrie, the rodeo association’s vice-president. “It’s pretty strange. For 99 per cent of the guys who are participating, this is the only rodeo stuff they do all year. It’s the only agricultural animal-related thing they do all year.”
That goes for the bull riders, bull doggers, and wild horse race participants at the 33-year-old event — only the barrel racers practise during the rest of the year, he said.
“One of our bull riders is semi-professional, but the rest are just guys who want to give it a go.”
This year’s edition, held at the Airdrie rodeo grounds, attracted more than 100 participants in 11 events (all are police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, or corrections officers) and another 40 for the four children’s events.
Most come back year after year, although LaBrie is one of the few who spends any time on horseback or dealing with livestock outside of the mid-August event. Although he grew up in Calgary, LaBrie and wife Holly, a third-generation rancher, have been raising livestock near Olds for a decade. He participated in his first police rodeo four years ago and now qualifies as a veteran.
“There are a few of us there who know how to do it and so we’ll coach you as you get on whatever animal and help you get through it.”
Buckles are handed out, but fun and fundraising are the drivers.
“It started with a group of about 20 Calgary police officers, who I guess were interested in being tough cowboys, and a group of ranchers who invited them out to jump on some animals and have some fun,” said LaBrie. “It was never meant to be a fundraiser, but it kind of evolved and hooked up with the Missing Children Society. It’s a great way for us to give back to the community and it’s just grown and grown.”
The rodeo annually raises $10,000 for the Missing Children Society of Canada, along with another $2,000 for a memorial fund that promotes workplace safety for emergency responders. And while it may seem incongruous to have rank amateurs on rank bulls and horses “that are not even green broke,” there’s a method to this madness.
“There is a lot of stress when you’re a first responder,” said LaBrie. “So to get away with a bunch of guys and girls and not even talk about anything even remotely related to emergency services is a lot of fun. We’re just talking about the mud and the good times. It’s a good distraction for the competitors and their families.”
The event — which also has a petting zoo a
nd numerous kids’ activities, and ends with a barn dance — typically draws a crowd of 800 to 1,200 people. A steady overnight rain saw attendance drop to around 500 this year, but those in the stands thought the conditions were perfect.
“We’ve never had a mudbowl before, but the people watching thought it was one of the best rodeos we’ve had because it was so much fun,” said LaBrie. “We had a memorial at the start to honour one of our directors who passed away last month and also for Edmonton police Const. Daniel Woodall (who was killed in the line of duty in June).
“But even with the sombre start, it was nothing but laughs and giggles for pretty much the whole rodeo.”