Set along the Canada Day long weekend, the Ponoka Stampede has been considered more than just a rodeo. It’s been a tradition and something to take part in with the whole family.
The history dates back to 1920 when the Ponoka Sports Association was formed. The first event was a stampede to raise funds for a community restroom. Sixteen years later was a two-day stampede, carnival and sports event celebrating the Canada Day long weekend. This 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 andpromoting local events.
Held at the curling rink, the Ponoka Stampede included dances, children’s races, ladies softball and more, making it the perfect day for the whole family to enjoy.
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. The rodeo 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.
Now, over 80 years strong, 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, 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. Harry 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 also happened to be 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 the rodeo and community of Ponoka.
With its rich history and well-known names in the world of rodeo, the Ponoka Stampede aims to be bigger and better every year.