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The Ponoka Stampede: The Wild West of ‘36 Lives On

With its rich history and well-known names in the world of rodeo, the Ponoka Stampede aims to be bigger and better every year

The official motto of the Ponoka Stampede is “The Wild West of ’36 Lives On,” however, its roots extend even further back than that. 

The Ponoka Sports Association was formed around 1920. Their first event was a rodeo to raise funds for a public washroom. 

That was the official beginning of the Ponoka Stampede. 

Cowboy George MacKeddie led the first Ponoka Stampede, which attracted rodeo fans from near and far. MacKeddie moved to Ponoka with his wife and a few of their horses, never losing his love for rodeos and promoting local events. 

Held at the curling rink, the Ponoka Stampede included dances, children’s races, ladies’ softball and more. 

It wasn’t until 1936 that a two-day rodeo was undertaken, complete with a carnival and sporting events, celebrated on Canada Day. 

Fast forward to 1941: chuckwagon races were introduced to the Stampede thanks to the Dorchester family, and the races have become one of the most popular events featured at the Stampede to this day, helping to grow the rodeo from 3,000 fans to one of the top 10 rodeos in the world. 

Now, 88 years in, the Ponoka Stampede is a world-renowned event, and has the title of Canada’s largest seven day pro rodeo. Considered more than just a rodeo, the Ponoka Stampede is legacy, tradition and entertainment for the whole family. 

Today, Ponoka Stampede draws in the best cowboys and cowgirls from across North America to compete for over half a million dollars in prize money — a huge increase from the early days of 50 cents to $6 winnings. 

The Stampede has become a tradition for kids and adults alike to watch the excitement of rodeo unfold. It has also become the largest Canadian Professional Cowboy Association approved rodeo. 

With many important names to consider in the Ponoka Stampede, one that can be heard often on the loudspeakers is “Vold,” a popular name in the world of rodeo. 

Harry Vold, who was born in 1924 and raised on the family ranch east of Ponoka, was part of one of the first pioneer families to settle in the Asker district in the late 1800s. Vold and his brothers, Clifford, Norman and Ralph, worked on their father’s 3,000-acre land and soon developed a good eye for stock. 

Their father Nansen Vold was one of the district’s first official auctioneers which is what helped Harry learn a thing or two about auctions, becoming a self-taught auctioneer himself. He sold his first horse for $50 and has gone on to make friends at sales across Western Canada and the U.S. 

In 1957 Harry and brother Ralph, in partnership with Bill and Shorty Jones, went on to purchase the Ponoka Auction Market. 

Cliff Vold, who passed away on July 30, 2006, was the last surviving charter member of the group that founded the Ponoka Stampede. He also happened to win the saddle bronc riding championship in 1936 at the Ponoka Stampede. 

Ralph Vold was a rancher, steer rider and the owner of a herd of Brahman bulls. He was a life member and senator of the Ponoka Stampede Association, serving in all areas of the organization for four decades, along with being an ongoing international promoter of rodeo and the Ponoka community. 

With its rich history and well-known names in the world of rodeo, the Ponoka Stampede aims to be bigger and better every year. 

Ponoka News is your source for all things Ponoka Stampede leading up to and during Stampede Week June 25 to July 1. Find more Ponoka Stampede stories here.