Sadly, like so many events, the 54th annual Cochrane Lions Labour Day Rodeo was canceled last year.  Cochrane’s beloved and largest weekend event of the year was greatly missed by everyone.  It was a tough blow to the Cochrane Lions Club and while the pandemic may have winded the organization, they were not knocked out and are making plans to present the Labour Day Rodeo this year.

At the end of January, the provincial government announced it would be investing $17 million to ensure the stabilization of performing arts, sports, and rodeo organizations. In the announcement of the grant, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women Sharon Aheer said, “This funding is critical to supporting venues and events that build and sustain vibrant communities and our cultural heritage and our mental well-being. Reinvigorating our live experience sector will also bring back jobs and foster tourism to support our economic recovery. When arts, culture, sport, and heritage thrive, Alberta thrives.”

In past years, the Cochrane Lions Rodeo has typically not applied for grants offered by the government in order to operate the rodeo. It was generally felt there were others that needed it more. However, in the unprecedented year of 2020 Co-Director of the Rodeo, Kevin Firkus says, “When we’ve spent as a much as we have over the year without any income we start depleting our bank account. {…} We need help with the rodeo.  It’s the biggest weekend event in Cochrane and we thought we would take advantage of this opportunity to help. If we get through this pandemic it would be fabulous to be able to have the rodeo this September long weekend. I know the town and everyone missed it last year. So, as long as the restrictions are gone we are going to move forward with our rodeo and hopefully, this grant helps us out as much as possible." 

Qualifying organizations will be eligible for a one-time grant of up to 25 percent of eligible expenses based on 2018 and 2019 financials. Organizations may use funds for ongoing operational costs, such as utilities, rent, insurance, and programming, to support their reopening. The Stabilize Program allocates $12 million, and applications will be accepted until midnight Feb.18. Firkus says Cochrane’s application is in the works.

Another reason the Cochrane Lions are pursuing the grant is due to the fact that every year they hold a spring dance in April which is a major fundraiser. The proceeds raised, go directly towards presenting the rodeo. Firkus and the organization are dubious that health restrictions will be lifted soon enough for the dance to happen. Another blow to the bank account. The impending loss of the major fundraiser and the lost revenue from 2020, along with all the other events the Lions operate made it necessary to submit the application for the government grant.

The Cochrane Lions Club is a driving force in our community and works all year round to help make sure that where we live, is a better place. Even though the rodeo and other events were reined in 2020, that has not stopped them from helping out in the community. The Lions Club has worked throughout the year to help families and groups in need during the pandemic and hopefully, karma will be at work to return their good deeds and be awarded the government grant.

Then it is just a matter of hoping with all hope that we are on the other side of the pandemic and that the Cochrane Lions can present the Labour Day Rodeo that will be appreciated all more than ever before.