Everything about Element Zone

Writing Credit:  Mandy Lowey  

Edson Neighbours Magazine – May 2022 Edition


Freestyle bullfighting is the art of man battling it out, often combining aerobatic jumps, fast footwork against a thirteen hundred pound bull. A bullfighters job was originally created to protect a bull rider that falls off in a bull riding wreck. The bullfighters jump in, to distract the bull away from an injured bull rider. Professional Bullfighter Travis James has spent the majority of his life on the edge of danger. “I am my most happiest, fighting bulls!”, he boasts, “I have been doing it for eleven years, six of those years as a professional bullfighter, across Canada and the United States”.


“Out here I’m in my Element, I’m in my Zone”, he quips, looking out over the arena and chutes that occupy his pasture. Travis James stands in the announcers booth and reflects on his latest entrepreneurial dream – a homegrown arena, built in his backyard, where friends and family could gather for world class entertainment, without having to leave the community. 


When the Covid-19 lockdown hit our community, Travis found himself facing one of his biggest hardships. With each announcement from the government, every agricultural event Travis had planned for the rodeo season, was canceled. Each time the phone rang, it was an event organizer calling to cancel Travis’ services – professional bullfighting, stock contractor, miniature bucking pony events and learning sessions were all canceled. This was an unimaginable burden, having lost the majority of his income, and many livestock to feed. He also was maintaining the family farm and trying to “ride out” the pandemic lockdowns in hopes for a return to normalcy. This devastation took its toll and in April of 2020, Travis attempted to end his own life. 


Travis credits the non-profit organization, The Thumbs Up Foundation, with providing him the tools to talk openly about mental health and provided mental health resources. In the agricultural circle, many farmers can face depression for a multitude of reasons. Travis is always working to change the narrative, and is an advocate for mental health, as he encourages people to “put the work in”, and seek counseling and work with trained professionals. 


As 2020 marched on, Travis began investing in one of his dreams- his arena. He began working with family and friends to assemble the space. In May 2021, Element Zone arena held its first event: Rank Mini Pony bucking. It was a wet weekend, full of muddy competitors being bucked off of miniature ponies. Many spectator’s and competitor’s showed up in support of Travis James. It was a wonderful sight to see the community embrace the outdoors, being together, but still adhering to health guidelines for the event. 


From there the arena grew. Travis added an above ground announcers booth, and some more chutes. More seating was incorporated, extra bathrooms, and an area for bonfires at night. Element Zone hosted a “Midnight Bullride” having light towers illuminating the outdoor arena, and freestyle bullfighting in the semi-dark of night. As the night came to an end, the crowd offered a standing ovation – nothing but support for Travis.


Element Zone is located ten minutes north of Edson on the James’ family farm. Having grown up within the community, seeing the last name “James” on a roster for a rodeo event was a given. Travis’s mother, Joanna, sadly passed away in 2016. She held a heavily decorated past, winning many trophies in various top tier rodeo competitions. Her fire and drive were most certainly passed down to Travis. The idea of a backyard arena was forced out of necessity, as Covid restrictions halted all large gatherings. Some small gatherings were allowed, and as the saying goes, Travis “took the bull by the horns”, and made that dream a reality, starting with some smaller training seminars. As restrictions were slowly lifted, bigger events were planned.  I am certain his late mother and younger brother are looking down on that arena and beaming with pride. His father Ken often visits from southern Alberta for events and helps Travis run them.


“The experience at the Element Zone was exciting! With every event I was a part of you could feel the growth and buzz around all things Element Zone and changes from the first event to the last event of the season. To see your friends’ businesses grow and succeed is amazing especially when you can contribute!” states Dominic St. Amand, Professional Rodeo Announcer.


The Element Zone arena runs on donations and ticket sales, and currently provides four spectator events. In the past, you could attend and watch Freestyle Bullfighting at Midnight, Bull Poker (a daring event, where the last one still sitting in their lawn chair wins, while a bull enters the arena, untethered), Bullriding and Ladies Cow Riding. Youth from various backgrounds try their hands at the glory of a eight second ride on a miniature bucking pony – a chance to emulate their bronc riding heroes that win pro rodeos. “Tough as nails” describes each Freestyle Bullfighter contestant as they battle bulls for a chance to win a cash prize. 



This year, organizer Travis James has some new ideas “up his sleeve”. The summer of 2022 is sure to be a high-light for events within our community. “We had the ‘Spring Fling” – our kickoff to the season, but this year we have added the “Mustachio Bullbashio” – an event we organized to help raise funds for mental health. We even have a “best mustache” competition this year!” Travis adds.