Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo
DAWSON CREEK – There was plenty of bull spit and horse power to go around this past weekend at the 91st annual Dawson Creek Fall Fair.
On Sunday evening, organizers estimated the attendance to be in excess of 30,000 for the entire five-day event with the Wrangler Professional Rodeo Tour and the World Professional Chuckwagon Association races stealing the show.
The grand stand was near capacity from Friday to Sunday as patrons from all parts of Alberta, British Columbia and the United States took in the world-class competitive action on the racetrack.
At the beginning of last week, organizers were concerned the amount of rain experienced this summer would wreck havoc on the track. Crews worked long hours to drain and groom the course, pulling off the greatest show in the Peace for another year with minimal hiccups.
Nineteen-year-old Jordan Hansen, a professional bull rider from Okotoks, Alberta was glad he took a pass on the 600 kilometre drive to Lashbrun, Saskatchewan for a Professional Bull Riding event, opting instead to make the 900 kilometre journey to Dawson Creek for the shot at strengthening his chances of qualifying for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton this November.
“I knew I had a pretty good bull going up here,” Hansen said. “I’d seen him a few times and he’s been good every time.”
He managed an 86-point ride, which was good enough for a second place tie, earning him $2,085.
“It comes at a really good time,” Hansen remarked after the final scores were tallied. “I was talking to a few guys who said ‘you’re not too far behind. You put together a couple of good weekends and you won’t be that far out’ [of contention for the Canadian Finals]. It kinda all fell into place this weekend.”
The big showing this weekend puts Hansen firmly in contention for his first Canadian Final Rodeo qualification.
“It would be a dream come true. I’ve watched my mom (barrel racer, Adel Hansen) there a couple of times. Knowing I could’ve been there last year lit a fire under me. It made me want to work a lot harder this year.”
The big winner on the weekend for the bull-riding event was Tanner Byrne. Riding a bull named Whiskey Jack, Byrne scored a near record setting 91.5 points, taking home $2,837.
Luke Creasy was another big winner at the Dawson Creek event taking home $2,515 on an 85-point bareback ride. Other winners included Layne Delemont (steer wrestling, $2571), Coleman Watt (saddle bronc, $2515), Ben Robinson (tie-down roping, $2,241) and Nikki Steffes (barrel racing, $2547).
In Chuckwagon racing action, in the event billed as “The Battle of the North”, Rick Fraser captured the title for the second time in his career, along with outriders Rory Gervais and Chase Vigen, earning a $15,000 bonus cheque in the “dash for cash” Sunday and a new GMC Sierra Truck. It’s the third win on the season for Fraser.
In a thrilling winner-take-all final, Fraser won the championship with a penalty free run of 1:19:30. Mark Sutherland placed second, finishing 48 one-hundredths of a second behind the champion Fraser, with 2007 Battle of the North champion Kurt Bensmiller and defending champion Kirk Sutherland finishing third and fourth respectively.
Kirk Sutherland actually crossed the finish line first but was hit with penalties that brought his time up, preventing the defending champion from winning his fourth career Dawson Creek crown.
The Wrangler Professional Rodeo Tour moves on to its final stop of the season next in Armstrong, BC Aug 28 – Sept. 1.
The World Professional Chuckwagon Association tour will also make its final stop of the season in Rocky Mountain House on August 14.
Some information provided by Pro Rodeo Canada and Billy Melville of halfmileofhell.com