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Heartland Rodeo Association ‘blue rodeo’ remembers founder

HRA themed its 20th year of finals in honour of friend and founder Terry Marshall who died suddenly last year

He’d be very proud and very honoured.

That’s how Strathclair cowgirl Lacey Marshall says her late father, Terry Marshall, would feel to see the events unfolding at Heartland Rodeo Association 20th annual finals here last weekend.

“This rodeo meant so much to him. And it’s amazing to think of all the lives he’s touched.”

HRA participants at Carman wore blue — Terry’s signature colour — and special blue memorial scarves at last weekend’s events as a tribute to their friend, mentor, and fellow founder of the Heartland Rodeo Association.

Marshall’s sudden passing at the age of 64 earlier this year was a huge blow. He had recently been named 2014 Cowboy of the Year by his peers.

The Rapid City man was a founder of the HRA, one of a half-dozen Manitobans who first envisioned an association in the mid-1990s that would make rodeo an affordable, accessible sport to entire families, thus sustaining the culture of rodeo in Manitoba.

Terry was their “pickup man” in every sense of the word, said other HRA members and founders.

“Terry was the cowboy lifesaver,” says Claude Potvin of Treherne, another founder who served as HRA’s first president when it organized in 1995. He knew Terry well. “He was second to nobody in this country as far as being a pickup man,” said Potvin.

Pickup riders swoop in to protect the bronc and bull riders once their ride is over, getting the rider out of harm’s way and herding ornery animals out of the arena.

Competitors in the Heartland Rodeo Association Finals in Carman September 13 and 14 wore blue shirts in honour of their friend and mentor Terry Marshall.

Competitors in the Heartland Rodeo Association Finals in Carman September 13 and 14 wore blue shirts in honour of their friend and mentor Terry Marshall.
photo: Lorraine Stevenson

Potvin said the HRA was born out of a need to keep rodeo close to home, affordable, and with multiple events so all members of a family can participate. They have numerous junior events and multiple women’s events.

Heartland rodeo is where you’ll see Mom riding ladies Barrels, Dad team roping, daughter doing junior barrels and goat tying and brother riding junior steer.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re five years old or 85. There’s still a place for you at Heartland,” said Potvin.

“We have daughters and mothers competing in the barrel racing against each other. We have grandfathers and grandsons roping together in the team roping.”

Heartland held 10 rodeos in 2015, double the number held only a few short years ago.

Events were held this year in Miami, Vita, Souris, Arborg, Minnedosa, Richer, Ericksdale and Teulon, with finals in Carman. An indoor rodeo was held for the first time this year in Portage la Prairie in conjunction with the Portage Ex.

Committees across Manitoba work with stock contractor 7-Cross Rodeo Company to host the events, while competitors attending weekend rodeos work towards having the highest number of points to become top qualifiers to compete for cash awards in the September finals.

Their group has ridden its share of highs and lows over the years, dwindling during tough years on the farm. But with 257 members in 2015, HRA is more popular than ever among Manitobans.

Key to its success has been sticking to that original intent of hosting an event with the needs of families in mind, says Jodi Winkler, HRA secretary. “That’s what it’s all about. We only allow one rodeo per weekend so you’re not having to haul one place and then be somewhere else the next day.”

Current serving president Winnipegger Rod Manchester agrees, adding that the event’s affordability also contributes to rodeo’s popularity.

There is a strong board of directors very committed to keeping rodeo an enduring part of Manitoba’s culture, he said.

A self-described ‘city boy,’ Manchester says he has Terry Marshall to thank for so much of what he learned in rodeo after he got interested in it a few years ago.

“He was a mentor. I do a little bit of pickup work and he’s taught me everything I know,” he said. “Terry is one of the reasons why I’m in rodeo today. There’s no doubt about that. He was a real character. He was a good friend.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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