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Family Tradition Canada Style: Zeke Thurston

Zeke Thurston was gearing up for another busy 2017 rodeo season, when I had a chance to sit down and talk with him more about his exciting 2016 finish.

It has been just over a month and half since the lights went out at the Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas for one of the most exciting Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, in recent history!  One of the big stories was for Canadian Bronc Rider, Zeke Thurston, in just his 2nd trip to the WNFR and he leaves with not only the WNFR Bronc Riding Average buckle, but also bests a very tough field of cowboys and horses, to win his first Saddle Bronc World Championship.
Thurston’s family is no stranger to the excitement of the National Finals Rodeo, Thurston’s dad, Skeeter, made the big show 6 times, but never did come out with the World Championship.  The Big Valley, Alberta cowboy knows that what he did in Las Vegas was something special.  Thurston said that his dad (Skeeter) said after the big wins “I never on a World Championship, But I sure raised a World Champion.”

Saddle Bronc Champion

Saddle Bronc Champion


Thurston was gearing up for another busy 2017 rodeo season, when I had a chance to set down and talk with him a bit more about his exciting 2016 finish.  Thurston was in Denver at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, along with traveling partners Taos Muncy, Tyrel Larson and Isaac Diaz, and was looking forward to keeping the momentum going for the new season.  
Zeke Thurston and Derek Barton

Zeke Thurston and Derek Barton


The new World Champion said that it still has not sunk in that he won the average and World Championship Gold Buckles, but he said that when he got back home, the town’s people made sure he knew they were proud of their hometown cowboy.  There was a sign, pictures in the local restaurant and had parties, all congratulating him on the win.  “It’s pretty cool seeing the whole town come together and all their support for him. He said the other great part was knowing his fellow Canadians, Jeremy Buhler and Levi Simpson, were receiving the same treatment after winning the Team Roping World Championship, “It was a fun time in Canada for sure!” Canada really showed up this year at the WNFR, with Jake Vold, Orin Larson, Jake Watson and Clay Elliot, all were major competitors at this year’s WNFR!!
What most people don’t know is that as soon as the photos, hand shaking and ceremonies are done on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the World Championship buckles are taken back so they can be completed with the winner’s names on them.  Thurston said that was pretty tough “ I was so busy with everything that I did not really get to look at the buckles, so when I get them back and my name is on both of them, then I will be really happy!”
Zeke Thurston and Derek Barton

Zeke Thurston and Derek Barton


Now that Zeke Thurston is a World Champion Bronc Rider, he knows that will carry some additional responsibility and he said he is read for the challenge.  I asked him what he will tell an up and coming rodeo athlete, when they ask him “What do I need to do to get to the same level you are?”  Thurston is just 22 years old and know being young should not slow you down for being a winner “I just tell them get on as many horses as they can, throw your name in the hat at big and small rodeos.  You will figure out where you stack up against the other guys riding and then you just work on it from there.”  For such a young age, Thurston seems to have a good idea on how to be a winner, “When you’re young in rodeo, you are kind of a little fish in a big sea, so you just have to not let it get to you.  Have fun and just ride broncs and it will all come together.”  
2016 Saddle Bronc Riding World Champion

2016 Saddle Bronc Riding World Champion


When Zeke said “you are kind of a little fish in a big sea…” With all that has happened to Zeke Thurston in his short pro career, he has proven that his name with be one that talks about for years. So, he is becoming a bigger fish in that sea, and will be getting bigger for a long time!!  

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Derek Barton is a Wyoming native and was raised on a ranch in Buffalo Wyoming. He grew up around cattle, horses, and rodeo all of his life. Derek was a radio broadcaster for over 30 years and progressed into rodeo announcing in the late 80’s. Derek is a PRCA Gold Card member and has announced rodeo all over the country. He is also a sound and music director for many major rodeos and does about approx.75 shows a year. Derek has taken his radio and rodeo background to the next level and is now owner and host of a worldwide radio and internet show, called Talk Rodeo. The show runs five days a week, year-round and features interviews with the biggest names in rodeo. He has also been the internet broadcaster for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the 50th Anniversary of the WNFR!! On top of all that, he works the media room every year at the WNFR, talking with all of the nightly winners and World Champions, he produces shows for all 10 rounds of the WNFR and is a frequent host and master of ceremony and music and production for major events during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. In his down time, he likes to sing and write music, he has two grown daughters, and he is a proud Grandpa to 3 Grandsons and 1 Grand Daughter. Lastly Derek thanks, God every day for allowing him to continue on this path in life and is Thankful for every day he has had. He knows life can throw a lot of surprises at you, as he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer back in 2007 and feels very lucky to be here still and knows God still has a plan for him.

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