His father was bucking horses for fun with friends on Sundays, rode the first year of Alberta’s oldest consecutive stampede, and on June 5, Murray Johnson will be opening the 94th annual Handhills Lake Stampede.
Johnson, 82, a longtime farmer in the Handhills area and son of Fulton Johnson, is honoured to be given the chance to pay respects to the stampede his father started almost a century ago.
Though he himself has never taken part in the stampede, his father Fulton was a bronc rider who homesteaded their family farm in 1908.
Fulton and his friends took their Sunday hobby and started what would become a long lived event for the Handhills area, east of Drumheller and south of Hanna.
“I’m quite proud about that,” Johnson admits. His father rode alongside the original Dick Cosgrave, of which the Richard Cosgrave Badlands Dinosaur Derby got its namesake.
Murray Johnson, now a Hanna resident, farmed alongside his father until he passed in 1960, and ranched and farmed until 2005. The farm celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008, and is now rented.
As to what Johnson will say to open an event that is close to his heart, he says he’ll pay respects to his father and the others who’ve made the event a consecutive success for 94 years.
“I have lots of respect for the old timers who’ve been a part of it their whole lives. Almost everyone there has some sort of connection to it.”
Day Lenfesty, an official with the Handhills Lake Stampede, said he and the board of directors are very excited to have Johnson open the stampede on June 4, 5, and 6.
The rodeo, which features all pro chuckwagon and chariot races, kicks off at 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The trade show starts at noon on Friday, with a kickoff party at 9 p.m. and beer gardens until 1 a.m.