Jared Parsonage may not have claimed the $50,000 prize he was seeking on Sunday Showdown at the Calgary Stampede, but he walked away with a priceless accolade, one that speaks to the respect he commands in the rodeo world.
The 28-year-old Maple Creek bull rider was presented with the prestigious Guy Weadick Award, a salute to the Stampede’s founder.
Each year it is given to a chuckwagon or rodeo competitor who best represents what a cowboy stands for and embodies the spirit of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. It is based upon ability, appearance, showmanship, character, sportsmanship and cooperation with other cowboys, the arena crew, the media and the public.
“It’s really cool to get such an award,” Parsonage told the News-Times on Monday after returning from Calgary to the family ranch near Maple Creek. “I was totally surprised. It’s a huge honour and pretty humbling.”
Started in 1969, the award has gone to many rodeo legends, including Scott Schiffner (2011), Dan Mortensen (2001), and Ty Murray (1990).
To be in such illustrious company makes the honour extra special for Parsonage, something he noted during his acceptance remarks on Sunday.
“It’s pretty darn cool to be on that list,” he told the crowd.
For Parsonage, the award added lustre to another strong showing at the Stampede, which has become a happy place for him to display the skills he began honing at the age of 15. This was his fourth appearance, a fact he doesn’t take for granted.
There is no automatic entry to the Stampede. To get there you have to possess a track record proving you can mix it with the best. Parsonage was thrilled to receive an invitation to compete.
“For sure, being at the Calgary Stampede is a dream,” he said.
“It’s a world stage where you are competing against the best, and riding the best bulls. I’ve had quite a bit of success here.”
In 2019, Parsonage finished second behind two-time champion Sage Kimzey. This time he entered Championship Sunday with hopes of going one step further after showing good early season form by winning last month’s Tanner Byrne Invitational, presented by Lipsett Cartage, at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, something he accepts philosophically. He was bucked off by Kodak Black, a bull he had never ridden before and one that typified the terrific stock at the Stampede.
How close did he get to eight seconds? He doesn’t know. When astride a twisting, heaving, snorting mass of muscle, he doesn’t count each second.
“I’m not really aware of the time,” he said. “I didn’t make it to eight, and that’s all that matters. That’s the way it goes.”
Four other riders among the ten suffered a similar fate.
In the first run of the finals, bulls were again the winners – all four competitors hit the dust. With intensity ramped up, Jordan Hansen, from Okotoks, Alberta, finally got the job done in the second run, riding Diamond Head to a score of 87.50 and winning the $50,000 payday. Kindersley’s Dakota Buttar got bucked off along with two others.
Among those rooting for Hansen were his wife, Sarah … and Parsonage.
“I’m really happy for Jordan,” Parsonage said. “He’s a good friend. If I could have picked one person to win apart from myself it would have been him.”
Reflecting on his performances at the July 9-18 Stampede, Parsonage could take away plenty of positives.
Competing in Pool B, he was the first competitor out of the chutes, setting the standard with an 83.50 ride on Walk Away ($5,000), good enough for a tie for first on the opening day.
“It’s a really good way to start things off in Canada at the Calgary Stampede,” he said in the immediate aftermath of the ride. “A big event starting up here in Canada is good to see and fun to be at.”
He was then bucked off on Day 2 by Alameda Slim, but bounced back on Day 3 with an 84.00 ride on Night Walker ($4,500), good enough for second heading into the fourth and final day of Pool B action.
Despite being bucked off Lose Your Bones, Parsonage qualified for Championship Sunday after collecting $9,500 on aggregate and getting third place in Pool B.
It justified the confidence he had felt entering the Stampede. Not that he ever doubts himself, for bull riding is about shooting for first, being aggressive, and unshakable self-belief.
“You always have to be confident to do your best on the world stage,” said Parsonage. “You have to trust in your own abilities.”
Is he a better rider now than in previous Stampedes?
“That’s a tough question,” he said, before pointing to his development outside the most dangerous eight seconds in sport.
“As you get older, you get wiser. I think I’m able to deal with the pressure better now, and that includes dealing with the media. I’ve learned to handle the hype, and not let that bother me.”
Through all the drama surrounding any top bull rider, Parsonage has never forgotten his rodeo roots. He feels fortunate to have grown up in an agricultural community like Maple Creek, with a strong rodeo tradition. He still likes to spend time on the family ranch between rodeos, keeping fit by doing regular cowboy work. His parents were in rodeos, but he is the first bull rider in the family.
After starting out as a steer rider, he transitioned to bull riding, drawn by the challenge of taking on a dangerous, unpredictable beast bred to buck. The toughness of the sport, knowing that your body is forever on the line, is a big part of its appeal.
“The odds are stacked against you,” he said.
More of those challenges await as Parsonage looks to compete across the PBR Canada tours this year – he enjoys the importance the PBR puts on all its touring events across the Touring Pro Division and elite PBR Canada Cup Series – and enter some of the bigger rodeos in the United States.
Parsonage’s post-Stampede stay in Maple Creek was short-lived, for he planned to compete in the Kinsella Traveldome Bullarama in Alberta on Wednesday.
Driving back and forth is an occupational necessity for a bull rider. After the enforced layoff because of COVID-19, Parsonage loves to feel the heat of competition again.
“It’s going to get busy,” he said. “It’s been pretty quiet for a while.”
Wherever the rodeo trail takes him, Parsonage, who got married last year to Tulsa, can be sure of one thing … his many fans back home will be following his exploits, willing him to even greater success.
During the Stampede, he received a stream of texts and Facebook messages.
“I’m pretty lucky to have lots of local support,” he said.
“I grew up in Maple Creek, and like any small town you get to know a lot of people. To have a community supporting you and following you is cool. I appreciate it.”