Before the chutes were opened so the cowboys and cowgirls could compete at the $400,000 K-Days Rodeo, North America’s richest one-header rodeo there were touching moments that highlight what Northlands is all about; one big family.

Opening night of Edmonton’s biggest annual festival, inside the Coliseum, K-Days’ first rodeo, July 21-23, kicked off with six-year-old Ridge Floundra from Pincher Creek, Alberta, walking out to the centre of the ring with his towering family cattle ranching horse, Z. On command the horse gently laid down, let Floundra mount his bareback, gentle stood back up, way up, as the pint-sized cowboy hung on to Z’s mane. Under the spotlight the two then proudly walked back out of the arena to the cheers of the audience.

Backstage the future competitive cowboy said, “Mom taught me and Z, I’m not afraid, just a little tingly in my stomach. When I grow up I want to be a bull rider or maybe Saddle Bronc.” Mom, Nicki who planned the opening ceremonies added, “I’m always thinking of things that include family. It’s important for people to see that rodeo is more than a competitive sport. It’s about the families passing down a way of life through the generations.”

Next, fourth generation 37-year-old rancher, Dean Edge from Rimbey, Alberta, walked out holding his 7-year-old son’s hand, while his twin 5-year-old daughters rode atop Sid, the family’s 22-year-old working horse. At the centre of the ring highlighted by warm coloured spotlights, the rodeo announcer talked about family and the rodeo tradition. Edge said of their special moment, “This is the first time I was able to bring my kids out there on our now, third generation (riding) horse. I could not even look up, I starting chocking up looking at my twins.” He was honoured to be asked by Northlands to take part in such a memorable way, “This is what my life is about, rodeoing is our time to be together. We are together 24/7 at the rodeo. I hope I get a picture of me holding my boy’s hand and two girls riding, it would be one of the best pictures I got.”

Before the horses, stock and riders could start the show the Canadian National Anthem had to be sung. Staying with the family theme, Edmonton born and raised K-Days Talent Search winner Bernard Quilala walked into the arena holding his six-moth-old daughter Aria. As he sang O Canada Aria was reaching for the live mic as people in the crowd could be heard saying “Awe, how cute.” Talking backstage proud dad said, “the way she was grabbing at the mic, I’m pretty sure she is going to grow up as a singer. At first I did not know about the family theme, the stars just aligned for us tonight. I will remember this for a long time.” While not a cowboy Quilala knows what it is like to get knocked down and get right back up on your horse. He explains, “I go back my whole life with Northlands and K-Days, first as a kid playing on the midway to when I started competing in the talent contest when I was 10-years-old.” Turned out to be a 24-year journey, “I never gave up, came back every year and finally won the $3,000 grand prize when I was 34-years-old. I still feel like of part of the family, Northlands has stayed in touch and asked me to sing O Canada at talent shows, the CFR, K-Day Rodeo and anything else that comes around.”

In the stands also watching the opening rodeo night was Northlands President and CEO, Tim Reid, “Really for me, it is about Northlands being able to give people a chance to tell our story, to celebrate the generations of western culture we have.”

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