Dozens of competitors are in Edmonton for the start of the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the premiere event on the Canadian professional rodeo schedule and a special one for the Albertans in the competition.
"There isn't anywhere else in the world I'd rather compete than right here," said steer wrestler Curtis Cassidy, who hails from Donalda, Alta.
"Competing in front of a crowd is one thing but competing in front of a crowd that half the people up there know who you are, means a lot to you."
The event has proven to be a big draw, with thousands of fans going to Rexall Place to watch competitors from western Canada and the United States in events like bull riding, steer wrestling, and saddle bronc. On Tuesday, Cassidy and other competitors spoke to the media at Rexall Place.
The CFR is also a highlight for 21-year-old Devon Mezei, from Scandia, Alta. Mezei enters the competition as the top-ranked bull rider in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association circuit.
"This is what I rodeoed all year for and to come in here number one means everything to me," he said Tuesday. "The only thing that I have to do is ride all my bulls and do my best here."
Mezei, Cassidy and the others are also competing for a piece of the biggest pot of prize money ever in CFR history — $1.27 million.
Doing well in the CFR can make or break a season, Cassidy said.
"If you do good, you go home with some money and can pay all your bills. If you do bad, you've got to get a job and pay your bills," he said, laughing.
The CFR starts 7 p.m. Wednesday at Rexall Place and continues until Sunday afternoon.