Ponoka, with a population of 6,700, will swell to thousands more during Stampede Week, June 25 to July 1.
The Stampede brings many different events over the week but the best part for Joe Dodds is the first day. As president of the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association, Dodds really enjoys the entire experience but all the planning and organizing culminates on that first day.
“It’s better than Christmas, it lasts a whole week,” says Dodds. “You kind of forget about your life for seven days.”
Community events that go along with the Stampede are fun for the entire family; from pancake breakfasts, to the Stampede Parade, from the midway to Canada Day festivities. June 25 at the Stampede will bring entertainment from the well-known Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Dodge Truck Giveaway winner will be announced. As if that wasn’t enough, country music legend Wynonna Judd will entertain music fans June 27, followed by fireworks.
The timed events have two go-rounds a day, once during the morning slack and again in the afternoon rodeo. Tuesday has an evening performance rather than in the afternoon and the last day, July 1, features the top 12 competitors; the top four then compete in the final rodeo showdown in the evening.
People from all over North America come to the Ponoka Stampede for their vacation and to camp, says Dodds. He 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.”
A great way to close the evening’s entertainment is with a bang but it’s also something to give back to the town, says director Mike Stretch. “When the music is over…It helps get people’s focus on something else.”
People have come expect the fireworks, especially after the talent show performance. Stretch remembers feedback one year when there were no fireworks after the talent show. “When you don’t have it, people miss it.”
Mural honours strong western heritage
After two years the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame (CPRHF) in Ponoka is ready to unveil its 120-foot long mural.
The mural is a dedication to the first days of rodeo up to present day stampeders and will make its home at the CPRHF headquarters upstairs in the Calnash Ag Event Centre. Artist Inge Sybrandi was commissioned to paint the epic mural, and Judi Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the hall of fame is “over the top pleased with the quality of her work. It’s mind blowing let me tell ya.’”
The mural starts out with black and white paintings to keep in line with the old photographs and then starts to slowly move into colour. She feels the unveiling on June 25 will be an even bigger day than their grand opening last year during the 76th Ponoka Stampede.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, the Calgary Stampede and Dodge Ram sponsored the mural and they received a sneak preview after Sybrandi revealed three 4 foot by 5 foot portions. Pictures of actual rodeo events were used in the mural as well. “You may just recognize the rider.”
Sybrandi finds herself excited and nervous at the same time over the unveiling. Even though people may say they do not care what people think, the artist still worries. “In reality, everybody cares about what people think.”
“To have your own 120-foot work up there is intimidating to me,” she added.
Each of the 25 pieces presented a different challenge and because of that have several layers of paint. Rather than fight with the panel, Sybrandi painted over it to meet her exacting standards and to give viewers something she can be proud of.