BY JEFFREY HEYDEN-KAYE
For one week of the year the small town of Ponoka becomes a cowboy metropolis that brings thousands to its small community to enjoy the 78th Ponoka Stampede.
Organizers call it the Wild West of the ’36 and Stampede President Joe Dodds has a special phrase that many cowboys use when its rodeo time. “It’s better than Christmas, it lasts a whole week.”
If it has western roots or involves cowboys, the chances are rodeo lovers will be able to see some of the action over the busy Stampede week from June 24th to July 1st. Members of the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association work year-round to bring high quality entertainment, which starts with the Jace Harty Memorial Bull Riding Event.
This Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event was added to the Ponoka Stampede list of events last year and gets things going for rodeo fans.
“You kind of forget about your life for seven days,” said Dodds.
Events at the Ponoka Stampede are sanctioned by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and have the top 10 total payouts in the world.
Events during the week are geared for the entire family and involve pancake breakfasts, a three-mile long parade and midway.
Rodeo lovers will get their fair share of cowboys and guns during the Alberta Mounted Shooters Association show at the Calnash Ag Event Centre and in the evening, grandstand music performances by the likes of Corb Lund and Big and Rich are sure to keep country music lovers happy.
A total of four nights finish with a bang during the fireworks displays, which gets people excited for the next day of rodeo and chuckwagon action.
The World Professional Chuckwagon Association provides fans with six nights of entertainment, including the $50,000 Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash.
The steer wrestlers (bulldoggers), calf ropers and team ropers have two go-rounds in a day; slack in the morning and then during the pro rodeo in the afternoon. This was done to give competitors a fighting chance to win.
Infield entertainment is always fun with rodeo clown Ash (Crash) Cooper keeping people laughing during the rodeo. Also horse trainer Bobby Kerr will show thousands of attendees the bond that can be created between a horse and his owner.
People from all over world come to the Ponoka Stampede for their vacation. Dodds has seen licence plates from Alaska, the Yukon and the United States.
“We try to put on a first class organization and it works all the way down.”
Another feature during the rodeo week is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink awareness day for June 28th. The idea was created by Wrangler to raise awareness for breast cancer and the Stampede Association took on the idea in 2007.
The Dash for Cash and the Stampede Showdown — which brings the best four riders in all the rodeo events in a final exciting showdown — on the last day of the Ponoka Stampede are a crowd favourite that has everyone involved on the edge of their seats.