50th Anniversary for Writing-on-Stone Rodeo

The dramatic backdrop of the Writing-on-Stone rodeo grounds. Photo by Dianne Finstad.

There are plenty of scenic rodeo grounds on the prairies, but one of the most unique is nestled in the shadow of the hoodoos at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

Set in the prairie grasslands of southern Alberta, Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi is a sacred landscape. The spectacular Milk River valley contains the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America. Fittingly, the theme for the national historic site is “Where histories, stories and dreams become one.”

It’s a place singer Corb Lund immortalized with a picture of him riding a steer there on his Five Dollar Bill CD, and where Canadian champion Marty Becker played in the sand as his roping ambitions were being fuelled. This year, in the Lil Rascals barrel racing was pro racer Nancy Csabay’s daughter Kate and other second-and-third generation rodeo contestants competing alongside First Nations competitors.

What began with a meeting among local ranchers about forming a roping and riding club in the winter of 1958 at the Lucky Strike Hall has turned into a western legacy for the community. They hosted their first rodeo on June 4, 1966 and since then the site has been upgraded and remodelled several times.

What hasn’t changed is the family feel at the special gathering place, just as the Blackfoot people likely sensed when they carved their petroglyphs on the nearby sandstone cliffs thousands of years before.

Congratulations to the Writing-on-Stone Rodeo committee, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in August featuring three performances of Chinook and CCA sanctioned action.