Stampede bucks off economy, sets new record

The numbers seemed to work out wonderfully for the 2016 Ponoka Stampede.

The numbers seemed to work out wonderfully for the 2016 Ponoka Stampede.

This year’s 80th edition drew more than 80,000 fans through the gates, setting a new all-time attendance record.

Blair Vold, Ponoka Stampede director, stated that while numbers seem to be going down elsewhere, the fact the Stampede was able to grow was very pleasing to see.

“Seeing another 2,000 people come to the Stampede this year, given the economy Albertans are still dealing with, was good for us to see,” Vold said in an interview on Monday, July 11.

“I think a lot of people chose to stay close to home and take in the good family entertainment we offer at a reasonable price with the free camping being a draw as well.”

One more positive Vold explained was the new addition to the pre-Stampede line up the Ride, Rock & Roll professional bull riding competition that also included a concert from a pair of rock bands from the 1980s and 90s.

“The idea behind the event was to bring in a different demographic of people that might not be rodeo fans and introduce them to it, hoping they would stay around for the rest of the week to take in some other performances,” he said, adding they are looking at some way to possibly incorporate the event into Stampede Week.

“I think that event certainly helped and the Clint Black concert was definitely a success. Meanwhile, the Dallas Smith concert was spectacular and came on such a beautiful evening. There were lots of people at both and the fact that KG radio selfie went viral along with the huge walk up crowd that packed the infield made it even better than we could’ve hoped.”

Vold added the tornado scare that same evening where a confirmed tornado touched down in a couple spots on the town’s north end was a concern, but their evacuation plan was in place and ready though it wasn’t implemented.

As for next year, Vold explained that planning is already underway with each director going over their notes of what they thought worked and didn’t while ideas to improve things are being discussed.

“There will always be little things, little tweaks, but what we are looking at for sure is possibly paving the midway area, constructing some new washrooms and adding some more seating for the contestants and their families,” he said.

“As well, we are also working on making sure our performances remain snappy and first class since it’s hard to make people sit for more than two and a half hours.”

On the entertainment side, Amanda Payne’s horse act was a big hit among the fans and Vold stated it was something special to watch, while also maintaining the tradition and heritage of what the Stampede is all about.

“I know we want to see how much more we can grow, though I don’t know how much bigger we can get for a seven-day event,” Vold said, who will be running for president when the Stampede association holds its annual general meeting in October.

“We have a great group of directors and we listen to everybody, so with 14 people and all of the volunteers and tremendous support Ponoka provides, the Ponoka Stampede is very fortunate.”

Next year’s Ponoka Stampede will run from June 27 to July 3.