The Town of Okotoks will have an influx of rodeo athletes in late August.

The Okotoks Pro Rodeo is returning to the Millarville Racetrack, where athletes will be competing to see if they have what it takes to make it to the biggest rodeos in North America.

"We have the full seven pro events," explains the Marketing Director for the Rodeo, Trevor Reidy. "Bareback bronc, saddle bronc, bull riding. And then we have tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing. And then, of course, we have lady's break-a-way. Which is new to rodeo in Canada. I think this is our fourth year with lady's break-a-way roping."

They will also have kid events, such as Mutton Busting and Wild Pony Racing.

"And of course our Rodeo Queens that show up to our rodeo, they get involved in that one [Wild Pony Racing]. It's a pretty fun thing to watch those ladies on Sunday. We also have Dummy Roping for the kids, as well," Reidy says.

This is the Rodeo's 33rd year, but it wasn't until recently that they moved out to the Millarville Racetrack.

"We started out in Okotoks in the indoor arena. We kind of outgrew it and we moved out to Millarville, not including the Covid year, 5 years ago. We've got a lot more room out there, there's a ton of room for parking. On Saturday morning, of course, there's the Farmer's Market out there and a lot of people come for that because we have an event in the morning."

Quite often, when rodeos have too many people registering for an event, they decide to set aside time for the overflow of athletes.

The Pro Rodeo in Okotoks is no exception.

"So, we have another on Saturday morning, and it's just for those events in which we have an over-registration, because we only take up to 12 per event, per day during the regular rodeo. For example, last year, we had 102-barrel racers. 30 of them were in the rodeo and the other 70 went on Saturday morning."

There is no charge to watch the event on Saturday Morning.

"It's kind of a little extra that we have, and most rodeos do because they're limited on the number of people they can put in the rodeo during the course of the rodeo."

According to Reidy, there are numerous factors that can lead to having a surplus of athletes.

"One of them, of course, the livestock. Another one that enters into it is the other rodeos that are happening on the same weekend," says Reidy. "And the guys try and make as many rodeos as they possibly can. I'll give you an example. We used to be on the long weekend in September and we were competing with a rodeo, which is kind of a finals in B.C., out by Merritt. Because it was such a big event for them out there, a lot of the guys would compete there. So, they would set up their timing, so they compete, say Thursday or Wednesday, fly to Okotoks for Friday, and then fly back out to B.C.."

Over time, they eventually decided to move their rodeo a week earlier.

"We now have, right here in this area, three rodeos that week. We have Okotoks, Nanton, and Lethbridge. And we cooperate with one another and setup our events, and things like that, so that the guys and the ladies can make all three of those rodeos."

Reidy says there is a good amount of cooperation amongst the rodeos to make sure the athletes can compete in as many events at as many rodeos as possible.

Which helps them to make it to the biggest rodeos in North America.

"They earn points for both the CFR (Canadian Finals Rodeo), for the National Finals in the States, which is in Las Vegas. And also, for the ladies' professional rodeo association. So, there's three associations there that our rodeo, all of the money earned goes towards points to qualify for those rodeos," Reidy explains.

In order for the athletes to compete at the Okotoks Rodeo, they must have an update rodeo card from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

"With that card, they can travel to rodeos. And if they can make their timing work out right, then they can come to our rodeo, and they could also make Nanton and Lethbridge. And all the other 50-some odd rodeos in Canada. But it also gives them a chance to compete in the States with their card," Reidy says.

Other than having a rodeo card and paying the registration fee, there are no other requirements to join the Okotoks Pro Rodeo.

The fees vary depending upon the event and are paid to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

80 per cent of that fee will end up in the purse for the rodeo.

That money gets added onto the already $4000 per event, and then given to the top six contestants.

"It can turn into some pretty good-sized cheques by the time the year is over."

The Rodeo will happen from August 23rd to 25th, and Reidy says to expect to see some local talent compete.

There will also be a Western Market for people to peruse through while they are there.

To learn more about the Rodeo and buy tickets, head over to their website.