Looking for a fun and cool way to celebrate one of the final weekends of summer? Then make the trip to Cochrane to experience a true and small-town rodeo is like.
The Cochrane Rodeo, this year from Sept. 2 to 4, has been in existence for over 50 years, and it’s where a long list of cowboys have got their legs and moved up in the professional rodeo world.
What sets this rodeo apart from others? It is insanely intimate.
The decent sized infield is lined with seats that allow people to get right up close to the action – so close you might just get a little dirt on you.
Many of the people who attend have been coming here for years because the rodeo boasts some of the best amateur cowboys in Alberta.
Kevin Firkus, chairman of the Cochrane Rodeo for Lion’s Club for six years, will tell you what sets this rodeo apart from others in the province.
“We are right beside a million people,” said Firkus, referring to Calgary’s proximity to Cochrane.
“We have a lot of people come who have been to the Stampede.”
But they flock to Cochrane’s Labour Day rodeo because they know they’ll be so close to the action.
The buzz of the rodeo in infectious, and you’re sure to notice there are lots of locals, but plenty of out to towners, too.
“It is so friendly, as soon as someone walks in they feel a part of it,” said Firkus.
Benches and stands line the perimeter of the infield, but it is not uncommon to see people standing up nearly right against the fences. You can’t get get any closer to the action than that.
Shelby Cummings, professional trick rider for Children’s Wish Foundation and STARS, has been performing at the Cochrane Rodeo for a few years.
She always enjoys coming back to it.
“It is fun – it is like coming to my home town,” said Cummings, who lives in Water Valley about 25 minutes away.
She credits the volunteers with making the event extra special. “They all come out and pitch in and volunteer, so it is nice to see such big crowds, people sitting in the stands.
“Everyone comes together; it is nice to be a part of something that is so close and fun.”
Close is the operative word here. The rodeo grounds are located on the edge of downtown Cochrane, which makes the event not only hyper local, but so accessible.
“We have some of the best contestants in Alberta; Cochrane is a very unique rodeo town,” said Firkus.
The event is the Lion’s Club’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
He says that over the years, the organization has given away more than “$10 million dollars and last year we gave away $225,000 alone.
Most of the competitors are local to Alberta, as are the sponsors, so all the money goes to people in the community.
And events like mutton busting and wild pony races, make it a super family friendly event.
Last year, one of the highlights was a fighter jet flyover, which Firkus said may be a first for an amateur rodeo.
Head into town for ice cream or craft beer
A benefit to having the rodeo grounds in the heart of Cochrane, is that you can easily leave the excitement and discover fun things to do in the town, too.
MacKay’s ice cream is favourite go-to for most people. The Saturday morning farmer’s market and a host of restaurants and pubs will also keep you busy when you are not on the rodeo grounds.
Take the time to drive a little bit further into Cochrane to discover the brew pub Half Hitch. Another local gem, this pub serves good food and brewed onsite craft beers. (I can vouch or the pork belly tacos and Farmer’s Daughter ale!)
The inviting patio gives a view of the town and surrounding foothills, perfect for chilling out after a day of watching bull riding and calf roping.