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Busy and fulfilling season for Miss Ponoka Stampede’s Kaylee Shantz

Kaylee Shantz was crowned Miss Rodeo Canada last November at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer. (Photo by Michael’s Studio)

It’s been an extraordinary year for Miss Ponoka Stampede’s Kaylee Shantz, who also landed the Miss Rodeo Canada title late last year.

Born in Calgary, Shantz’s early years were spent in Airdrie. The family later settled in Ponoka County back in 2012, on a farm near Rimbey.

Shantz, 23, would eventually attend Red Deer Polytechnic, earning her healthcare aide certification.

“I hope to go back to school after my reign as Miss Rodeo Canada and earn my psychology degree,” she explained, adding that child psychology is one of her passions.

“It’s so fulfilling to me, and so I am excited to pursue that field.”

Beyond her academic goals, she also closely holds to her rural roots, including involvement in the equine industry.

“I was heavily involved in the English and Western world ever since I can remember — I’ve been involved with horses for a very long time,” she said.

Over the years, this passion tapped into rodeo.

Shantz also has roots in the rodeo world from her cousins, the Dorchesters who brought chuckwagon racing to the Ponoka Stampede.

“The stampede became a family tradition, and also kind of a reunion for us — we were able to get together, so that has made it all the more special.”

It was nearly a year ago that Shantz won the Miss Ponoka Stampede title, and she looks back on the past year as being a fulfilling journey of attending all kinds of events and making connections with folks across the province and beyond.

The Miss Rodeo Canada title came her way last November at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer — an amazing means of capping off what had already been a personally outstanding year, she said.

“It was a very big year — a very exciting one for sure,” she said.

“There were so many emotions with Ponoka especially because that was my home. It was so very special to me because my family rallied behind me; they were so supportive of the journey that I was on.

“A lot of people don’t know the work that goes into the preparation for a competition like that, at that level. I had been working towards the Miss Ponoka Stampede title for a very long time because I knew that it was a role that I had wanted to fulfill,” she said.

“That rush of emotions when they call your name — you are kind of holding your breath a little bit. That is the most incredible feeling.”

After winning that title, the work kicked in right away — Shantz would attend all kinds of events across Alberta and out of province as well.

She even attended events in Washington.

“We also do a lot of volunteer work, too. It’s a year of service to your community because you are attending all of these events as a volunteer. You are making sure that you can help out in any way that you can,” she explained.

“The girls always say that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it couldn’t be more true.”

As mentioned, as if winning Miss Ponoka Stampede wasn’t a gift in itself, landing the Miss Rodeo Canada title was the icing on the cake.

“I will never forget it.”

Shantz had an early start in landing these titles, having been named the Rimbey Rodeo Queen back in 2018. She was also Miss Rodeo Sundre in 2021.

“It was a really fun experience to learn all the workings of it,” she said, reflecting on that very first stint in Rimbey.

“I’m so grateful that I tried for it, and that I put myself out there. I was my most authentic self.

“It’s also about being willing to learn and putting in the work, and about the dedication to that passion and goal that you have. That is the most important thing because really, you can learn any of it,” she explained.

“It’s an amazing program for girls. It promotes confidence, self-discovery, and having that passion for our western way of life, and being able to represent it in such a beautiful way,” she said.

“Put yourself out there — trying is the main thing.”

Meanwhile, even though Shantz was named Miss Rodeo Canada last November, the title wasn’t official until Jan. 1.

“There is a little bit of an overlap with the Miss Ponoka Stampede title as well.”

The next Miss Ponoka Stampede will be selected on April 23.

“It’s been incredible.

“The culture of rodeo is like nothing else. It’s an absolute celebration of our heritage, our roots, and where we come from,” she said.

“it’s also a celebration of our agricultural community, and that is something that I feel very passionate about.

“Anything held during the entire week of the Ponoka Stampede is about family. It’s a community, and it’s a celebration. It’s sportsmanship, and there is that competitive nature to it as well — it’s everything I love about the sport all combined into one.

“It’s an amazing feeling being able to be the face of that, to be representing something that you feel so passionate about.”

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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