In the world of pro rodeo, the Calgary Stampede provides a great model for other events to follow.
It’s the ultimate lucrative, all-star, outdoor summer rodeo. The 2014 edition, which began July 4 and concluded Sunday, featured a field of 20 credentialed riders in each event, including 19-time world all-around champion Trevor Brazile of Decatur, 2004 Professional Bull Riders world champion Mike Lee of Fort Worth and three-time world bareback riding champ Kaycee Feild of Payson, Utah.
Brazile, who earned $13,000 Canadian ($12,124 U.S.) at the 2014 Stampede after finishing in the top 10 in tie-down roping, said the Calgary rodeo is a trendsetter.
“It’s huge,” Brazile said. “It’s one rodeo that sets the precedents for all of the other rodeos. What happens here is going to be monumental and groundbreaking, and you want to be part of it.”
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The 10-day Calgary rodeo features a tournament format. During the final day, dubbed the Sunday Showdown, fans watch the top 10 in each event. Each event winner receives $100,000 Canadian ($93,266 U.S.).
During the final performance, all 10 cowboys ride in a first round. From there, the top four advance to the final round. During the finale, the cowboy with the highest score or the fastest time takes home a coveted $100,000 check.
The abundance of prize money at the Calgary Stampede commands respect. The July Calgary rodeo and March’s RFD-TV The American in Arlington both offer purses of around $2 million, very impressive for a rodeo outside of the National Finals, which offers more than $6 million over 10 days.
However, The American and the Calgary Stampede are the only two rodeos that pay competitors $100,000 in domestic currency for winning the final round.
Lee knows how it feels to win the Calgary Stampede. He clinched the $100,000 bull riding title in 2008.
“Winning this rodeo is unexplainable,” said Lee, who earned $10,500 at the 2014 Stampede. “You can’t really explain it. It sure makes you smile from ear to ear. Sometimes you go through the year and you don’t make that much money because you spend $50,000 or $60,000 on travel expenses. So that $100,000 check covers it all.”
Feild, who earned the Stampede’s $100,000 bareback riding title Sunday after turning in a remarkable finals score of 92, said the tougher cowboys rise to the top in Calgary.
“The best cowboy is going to win here,” Feild said. “They bring a lot of good horses from the Calgary Stampede [rodeo stock firm] and from other contractors. They want the best for the cowboys, and how they treat us is unbelievable.”
The Calgary rodeo has a tradition of thinking big. In 1982, the rodeo began offering $50,000 to each single event winner on the final day. But in 2006, the Stampede began offering $100,000.
The Calgary Stampede also is famous for breeding and producing great bucking horses. In addition to supplying stock for Canadian rodeos, the Stampede’s rodeo stock firm also helps U.S. rodeos. Earlier this year, the Stampede hauled broncs to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, RodeoHouston and The American.
Keith Marrington, the Stampede’s rodeo director, said fans thrive on watching matchups between high-profile cowboys and standout broncs.
“We’re pretty proud of our bucking horse program and its genetics, but it’s really the fans who benefit,” Marrington said. “When you have great cowboys, you have to give them great stock to get on.”