CZAR LAKE, Alberta — If you’re looking to find a hot event this summer, that combines all the best B’s – barbecue, baseball and bulls – then better make plans to head to Czar on July 21st. That’s when the third annual Czar Lake Bullarama will bring bull riding fans from across the province to the scenic east central Alberta community.
Set in the heart of rodeo and ranching country, organizers of the Bullarama are excited to see the enthusiasm the event has captured, not to mention the crowd it brings to the nearby town of Czar (population 202), which is located just west of the Saskatchewan border along Highway 13.
“The Bullarama took off right from the start,” related Dean Spornitz, a director with the organizing group. “We probably had 1200 (fans) the first year. The next year, we put more money into everything, and put up three brand new bleachers. We had probably two thousand people then, with 750-800 people at the dance.”
So what is the committee doing this year? Putting up another bleacher to accommodate even more folks!
Meantime, the dedicated core of volunteers has also worked hard on the facilities; rebuilding the chutes, improving the back pens, upgrading the power and also expanding the announcer’s stand.
But they’ve also been cowboy conscious. The purse for the PBR Canada Touring Pro Division event started at $5,000, doubled last year to $10,000, and then was upped again this year to $15,000.
“It’s always been our goal to be among the best single day bull ridings in Canada, period. We want to be the one where the best bull riders in the country, in North America, and the world, for that matter, come to,” Sporntiz confirmed.
He hinted their pattern of growth will likely continue if things go well again this year.
Another cowboy perk is the handcrafted Troy Fischer trophy buckle at stake.
“They’re beautiful. He does tremendous work. Josh Birks won our first event, and Josh is a heckuva bull rider. He said ‘this is the nicest buckle I’ve ever gotten’. Tyler Harr won last year, and did a (sponsor) photo shoot, wearing our buckle.”
Harr’s buckle even made the PBR’s main Instagram page, much to the committee’s delight.
The Bullarama’s roots go back to when Spornitz, his good friend and the group’s current President Jason Melin, and some buddies got concerned the rodeo grounds at Shorncliffe Lake were sitting there unused. They decided a bull riding event best fit their audience, as well as the limited base of volunteers and budget. And they’ve never looked back.
“We’ve had tremendous support from our sponsors.”
That’s often a measure of success, and there has been no shortage of businesses willing to step up and have their name associated with the Czar Lake Bullarama. So the committee has responded, by adding more places and spaces to accommodate banners, as well as on the jumbotron, to give sponsors visible mileage for their commitment. As well, Spornitz looks after a Facebook page, and the event is represented on Instagram and Twitter.
This year, the Bullarama organizing crew has added junior bull riding to the program, including a Fischer buckle to that winner. The always popular wild pony race is back, to start the evening’s festivities, which Spornitz points out brings people from well beyond the region.
“People come from Edmonton, and Calgary, just to come to a good bull riding. But many (local) families have reunions too. It serves as the kickoff to the biggest weekend of the year out here. There’s a ball tournament and a barbecue supper on the Sunday night, and fireworks.”
Also this year, there is free camping at Shorncliffe Park for the night of July 21st. The wild pony race starts at 6:30, followed by the bull riding at 7:00.
Spornitz and the committee are excited about the success of the Bullarama itself. But they’re also pumped to see how it’s revived the community of Czar, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“It’s the event of the summer again. It had gotten to where we didn’t have anything that weekend other than a supper. We came along, and it totally took off. Community involvement is really good again.”