The middle of the city is probably the last place you’d look for 2,000 head of cattle. But once a year for the past 43 years, November in Edmonton meant hundreds of farmyard livestock making their way to Farmfair and the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) at Northlands. This year, your chance to connect with your inner cowboy or cowgirl comes Nov. 9-13.
The top athletes in rodeo compete in nine events: bareback, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc, tie-down roping, ladies barrel racing and bull riding. During rodeo week, they will crown Miss Rodeo Canada, and end every day with live country music as part of its Roadhouse Concert Series.
Parallel to this is Farmfair, which caters to the industries the rodeo originated from.
“The purpose of Farmfair is to provide an agriculture showcase to highlight the beef and equine industries, and to expand the market presence of the agricultural industry,” said Suzanne Bielert, event manager for Northlands.
“We have attendees focused on those industries to expand their knowledge, as well as the urban demographic and people who like to go to the Ram Country Marketplace trade show for their Christmas shopping. And of course, people who are there for the CFR,” she said.
The event harkens back to our agricultural heritage, providing an international forum for the latest and best in ranching. But city folk would find plenty to be interested in.
For $5 admission (the CFR and some other events have additional ticket prices), you can wander through eight different halls, four of which is devoted to livestock. It’s a way to get up close to some large and small hoofed beasts.
According to Bielert, “There are around 2,000 head of cattle and a Horse Wellness Expo that has about 50 horses a day, most of them being sold. There’s also a small livestock area, the cute little animals like sheep and goats.”
Competitions run throughout that awards prizes to the top purebred cows, who are shampooed, styled and blow-dried as much as any show dog.
“It’s a great opportunity for city people to see animals and ties that into where their food comes from, how it’s processed, the gate-to-plate approach.There are demonstrations, like the food lab that shows you how to make cheese and cook a flank steak.”
Sunday is family day, with child-friendly activities with the small livestock, music, face painting and the exciting stock dog (sheep-herding) and heavy horse competitions.
And new this year, Farmfair is debuting the Heritage Ranch Rodeo, where teams from 16 working ranches compete in events based on some of the practical skills needed on the farm, like sorting and branding cattle.
Although it was expected 2016 would be the last year that Edmonton hosted CFR, on Oct. 19, Northlands and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) confirmed that CFR will remain in Edmonton for at least another two years.
“Northlands has a rich history with rodeo,” said Tim Reid, president and CEO for Northlands.
Reid said the combined economic impact of CFR and Farmfair to Edmonton is $50 million.
Jeff Robson with the CPRA said, “This partnership allows us the opportunity to build a bigger, better CFR and surrounding events for the city.”
See schedules at farmfairinternational.com and cfr.ca.