By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
General manager Chas Lambert is excited about what the Ponoka Ag Event Centre will bring to Ponoka; business to hotels, stores and restaurants to name a few.
Lambert worked at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man. for five years as the events manager.
The Keystone Centre hosts approximately 250 cattle and rodeo shows per year, making Lambert an ideal candidate for the job.
Charlie Cutforth, president of the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society, is excited to have Lambert on board. Cutforth said Lambert hit the ground running when he started approximately four weeks ago and knows the ins and outs of the business.
Lambert’s experience comes from a lifetime of being involved with the sport of rodeo. As a child in 4-H he showed cattle, and in high school he participated in rodeo.
Everyone he has spoken to on the pro rodeo circuit feels the Ponoka Stampede is one of the best out there. “They all love Ponoka and this is just a really cool opportunity.”
Lambert, 31, plans to be at the event centre for at least six years.
“My goal has always been to eventually move to the Calgary Stampede, so this is a great stepping stone.”
Construction delays due to weather have made it hard for the event centre to have a fully prepared barn for events coming up but Lambert is confident they will be able to host two events coming up this month — Pro Rough Stock Finals Sept. 9 to 11, and the Alberta Paint Horse Show Sept. 24 and 25.
Both buildings at the event centre will be equipped with air exchange and heat, enabling the centre to hold events year round.
Crews are now building the exhibitors’ change room and the sound booth in the main building.
Half of the barn’s roof is complete and once that is done the stalls will be constructed.
The event centre itself was made possible through a partnership with the Town of Ponoka, Ponoka County, the Ponoka Ag Society and the Ponoka Stampede Association. Cutforth said it was a great sign of unity within the community to have such a partnership — one of the reasons the provincial government has awarded grants to the project.
The event centre will also be the new home to the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Lambert hopes to have everything ready for next year’s Ponoka Stampede, with an official opening next fall. The Broncs Rodeo Academy will also hold classes at the event centre using the arena for practice and lectures.
Lambert said the Ag Event Centre is now looking for donations to support the stalls housed in the barn and $2,000 will get your name or company on a plaque in front of each stall.