Innisfail woman honoured at National Finals Rodeo

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INNISFAIL – A local woman is one of a handful across North America recently honoured for her contributions to rodeo.

Shelly Bjarnason, 63, a local barrel racer, was recognized in a special ceremony at the 2017 World of Rodeo Reunion and Gold Card Gathering during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 8.

The event honoured a total of 50 women who have made important contributions to all areas of rodeo and the horse industry.

“It’s been a huge part of my entire life,” said Bjarnason. “I’ve been barrel racing right up until the last couple of years. Rodeo is a 12-month commitment.”

As part of a rodeo family, Bjarnason began barrel racing at a young age, growing up on a farm near Bashaw. She has lived in Innisfail for more than 30 years.

Bjarnason took a break from rodeo to raise a family but returned shortly after to continue her rodeo success.

“Prior to having a family I rode cows, I goat-tied and I did the rough stock events,” she said. “After that I was a princess at the Calgary Stampede and in 1975 at the CFR I was crowned Miss Rodeo Canada at 21 years of age.”

Bjarnason was recognized for her role in the Miss Rodeo Canada competition in Las Vegas.

“I was the first Miss Rodeo Canada crowned at the CFR (Canadian Finals Rodeo) in Edmonton,” said Bjarnason, adding she was thrilled to be honoured for her contributions to rodeo, joining the likes of country music star Reba McEntire.

“I am so honoured. It is so humbling. I just can’t put into words how much I appreciate it,” she said. “I could name 50 women in Central Alberta that I think are every bit or more deserving than I am.”

Bjarnason noted the impact women have had in the sport over the years.

“They’re keeping it tough. Everybody has to work a little harder to keep going because it gets more and more competitive every year,” she added.

Throughout the years she won a championship saddle with the Alberta Barrel Racing Association and placed at several pro rodeos in Canada.

In addition, Bjarnason and a couple of friends began a drill team, something she was committed to for 17 years.

“We did grand entries at rodeos all over Western Canada and we did hundreds of performances,” said Bjarnason, noting the local support she’s received in her rodeo career.

“Jack Daines is a fabulous rodeo supporter. He’s always supported me and I’ve really appreciated that.”

Bjarnason said success in her rodeo career comes down to the people around her.

“You have to have a lot of supportive people behind you,” said Bjarnason, noting family and friends. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Shelly Bjarnason

“I am so honoured. It is so humbling. I just can’t put into words how much I appreciate it. I could name 50 women in Central Alberta that I think are every bit or more deserving than I am.”

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Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean is a reporter with the Innisfail Province, joining the newspaper in 2013. She covers Penhold municipal politics, news and community events as well as sports in and around the town as well as in Innisfail.