It was the long-awaited return of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Canada Cup Series in Lethbridge. Over the weekend, fans came from near and far to take in the action at the ENMAX Centre.
“I’m just happy that things are back and open and we can take part in community events,” said fan Licia Bolch, as she stood in line on Saturday.
Bolch wasn’t the only one. Bull riders and organizers all expressed their excitement about not only being back but riding in front of a big crowd.
Logan Biever is a bull rider from Claresholm. He competed during the pandemic for small crowds and sometimes a room full of empty seats.
“It feels not the same at all,” he said. “When you got fans cheering at you, there’s no other feeling like that.”
“I hope we never have to go through anything as far as routing and planning with our schedule like we did the last 18 months,” said general manager of PBR Canada, Jason Davidson.
Davidson believes that going some time without fans in the room has made the PBR bull riders appreciate them more.
“I know it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when we got the crowd into it. And they were into it.”
The ENMAX Centre has been home to PBR bull riding for over two decades. The weekend’s PBR Canada’s Cup Series was the first major ticketed, fan-attended event to be held at the ENMAX since the start of the pandemic.
Coincidently, the last one was also an event by PBR Canada in March 2020 — weeks before COVID-19 restrictions took effect.
“It was great to be back here in Lethbridge and have that warm welcoming of that fan participation,” said Davidson. “We missed that.”
The feeling seemed to be mutual. The fans missed the bull riding, too.
“I like bull riding,” said fan Gord Hunter. He lives outside of Lethbridge and came into the city for the competition on Saturday. “I watch it on TV all the time, the PBR, so it’s awesome to come to visit.”
People in line told Global News they had travelled from British Columbia for the event.
“It’s pretty exciting. We’re really excited,” said fan Kaitlyn Sanchez. She came down from Calgary to meet her friend, Jamie Goldberg.
“To be able to do something on a Saturday? It’s been quite a while,” said Goldberg.
Saturday marked the night of the championship rides. Zane Lambert from Ponoka walked away with the prize, winning the season opener event and placing himself in the number one spot in the race for the 2021 PBR Canada Championship. Lambert was accompanied on his winning ride by Catch My Drift, a bull from Magrath.
“In Lethbridge, it seems like they really cheer when you make a bull ride,” he said. “They just love really good quality bull rides and they know what a quality bull ride is.”
It was a win 10 years in the making for Lambert, and he got to do it with his two-year-old son, Everett, watching.
“It’s pretty special,” said Lambert. “Especially for him to be able to see me win. It’s pretty cool to let him know I rode bulls.”
It was also a successful event for Claresholm bull rider Griffin Smeltzer. The rookie competitor snagged his first 90 point ride on the bull Happy Camper.
Any score above 90 is deemed to be exceptional.
Smeltzer said being able to do it close to home was even better.
“The crowd was outstanding tonight. I looked over a few times and saw buddies that I went to school with. I’m just really happy to do good in front of them and prove to them that I want to be somebody.”
The next PBR Canada event to take place in Lethbridge will be February 2022.