After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pete Knight Days rodeo and community celebration is coming back to Crossfield this June to celebrate its 45th anniversary.
However, the hiatus wasn’t all bad, as it allowed organizers to improve the local rodeo grounds.
"We have a new ticket booth and new siding on the building,” said Joanne Fox, president of the Crossfield Rodeo Society. “People who haven’t been out there for a while need to come out and see all we’ve done in the last two years.”
According to Fox, the two-year pause from the yearly rodeo was toughest on the cowboys and cowgirls who compete in the event.
“That’s their livelihood through the season and without being able to compete, [they] no longer have any income,” Fox said. “It's difficult for the younger competitors because they lose that year of experience.”
It’s because of the rodeo’s sponsors, Fox stressed, that the rodeo is able to come back this year, with no COVID-19 restrictions. According to Fox, the rodeo's sponsorship is back to near-normal levels, which will help offset the losses the rodeo experienced throughout the pandemic.
“We couldn’t do it without the community,” she said, highlighting the support shown by sponsors, the Town of Crossfield, the competitors, and everyone who comes out to celebrate Pete Knight Days.
The yearly rodeo is named after cowboy Pete Knight, one of Crossfield’s most famous historic residents. Knight helped put Crossfield on the map thanks to his accomplishments in the North American rodeo circuit in the 1930s. He died in 1937 following a fatal injury he sustained during a rodeo in California.
The rodeo, a weekend-long event that features a full day of activities including a pancake breakfast, parade, dance, live music, beer gardens, pony races, fireworks, and a rodeo by the Foothills Cowboy Association (FCA), will take place on June 10 and 11 in Crossfield.
Kicking off the festivities on Friday, June 10, the Town of Crossfield is hosting a breakfast at the Crossfield and District Community Centre. Grand entry for the rodeo begins at 6 p.m.
Rodeo Royalty will be crowned at the rodeo, awarded to a young lady between the ages of 14 and 17 based on topics such as poise, public speaking, riding ability, and knowledge of Pete Knight’s history, Fox added. To end the night, The Scarecrows band is performing for guests to dance along late into the night.
On Saturday, the Crossfield Agricultural Society is hosting a pancake breakfast at the local community centre. The parade fires up right after breakfast, beginning at 11 a.m. at Railway Street and Limit Ave. The grand entry for the rodeo starts at 1 p.m., where guests can watch events like an FCA performance, a Calgary Stampede award presentation, and pony races. Canadian singer Julian Austin is performing at Saturday night's dance, and Fox said the festivities will wrap up with a fireworks display at 11 p.m.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the rodeo, there will be costumed horseback riders inspired by the early 1900s, according to Fox. Guests can expect a bigger parade this year, she added, and the rodeo will feature local vendors.
In addition, representatives from the Calgary Stampede will be presenting a buckle to the winning novice rider within the rodeo.
Pete Knight Days – which includes all events, access to the dance floor, and the children's entertainment area – costs $15 to attend, though children under 12 get into the rodeo for free. The rodeo also offers a children's area on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., where volunteers play with the children while parents explore the rodeo, according to Fox.
The revenue generated from the admission fee helps fund next year's rodeo, Fox said. However, she added in the future, the goal for the Crossfield Rodeo Society is to create a scholarship for local high school graduates.