Reflections of Ponoka: Ponoka County Fairs are a century-old tradition

The delightful theme of the 2013 Ponoka Agricultural Society Fair Saturday, Aug. 10 is Tradition Meets Innovation

In 1977 the spacious Ponoka Arena Complex became the new summer home of both the annual Ponoka County Fair and the Ponoka Farmers’ Market

The delightful theme of the 2013 Ponoka Agricultural Society Fair Saturday, Aug. 10 is Tradition Meets Innovation … Celebrating 300 years of sweet peas in your garden.

Although green thumbs may have been raising those sweet and colorful flowers for more than three centuries, the celebration of home-grown treats in the vibrant new Town of Ponoka began in a long row of tents set up beside the railway tracks in 1904. As the proud tradition of the County Fair enters its 109th year, our present weather combinations of rain and sun are great for growing and greenery, and hopefully have been ideal for producing some great displays of horticulture perfection for the upcoming fair

Our active Ponoka Agricultural Society was established in 1903 as a strong community effort with a mission to promote, support, and encourage agriculture opportunities in our urban and rural community. Over the years these always dedicated volunteer boards have played host to colorful August County Fairs and family attractions for young and old from residents of the town and county, as well as visitors from near and far. The summer event became so popular that the organization erected barns and buildings on the fairgrounds on a hilly area on the southern outskirts of town, and in 1921 would feature a two-day show that attracted more than 1,200 items and exhibits of livestock, horticulture, and home-making arts.As well as the magnificent displays of vegetables, flowers, fruits, and grains, there were tantalizing samples of home-cooking and culinary magic, a look at the skills of sewing, carving, carpentry and quilting, as well as a dance, games, races and much more. In the mid-1930s the thrilling sport of rodeo and wagon racing was added, and of course the area became the permanent home of the Ponoka Stampede.

After disbanding in 1957, the Ponoka Agricultural Society reorganized in 1961, and became aggressively involved with many local and district clubs, groups, sponsors, and volunteers who work together to organize the County Fair every August, and have strived to add many new attractions and events along the way. As a Canadian centennial project in 1967, the ag society consolidated the annual affair into a one-day event at the Kinsmen Recreation Centre, adding such exciting display competitions as a junior garden program, hobbies and handicrafts and then later a school competition division, kindly sponsored by Fort Ostell Chapter of the IODE. Milestones of the Ponoka Agricultural Society included the incorporation of the County Fair in 1970, becoming a certified society in 1973 to be eligible for provincial grants, and adding the exciting soap box derby to the mix in 1974.

The newly opened Ponoka Arena Complex became the next home of the County Fairs in 1977, the weekly Farmers’ Market was sponsored by the ag society, and the fair became a two-day event in 1978. As well as adding a Nominate Your Neighbour contest for the landscaping and gardening division, the society also introduced such other exciting family events as displays by the Art Club and Potter’s Guild, a petting zoo with exotic birds, antique displays, Family Fun Festival, music and entertainment features, Beef on a Bun Night, children’s activities, and a light horse show on the Stampede Grounds in conjunction with the County Fair. Most of the exquisite silver trays, ribbons, trophies and prizes handed out each year at the fair have been kindly sponsored by local businesses, organizations and individuals.

On with the show for 2013

A new feature of the County Fair this time around is that the Home, Hobby, and Horticultural Show Aug. 9 and 10 at the Ponoka Legion auditorium, while the others events will be featured just a short distance away at the spacious new Calnash Ag Event Centre on the same days.

Divisions on display at the legion hall will include: 4-H, photography, agriculture, junior agriculture, a junior division for ages 11 and under and 12 to 17 years of age, junior garden, rural and urban landscaping and vegetable garden competition, horticultural, arrangements and houseplants, vegetable section, culinary arts, art, arts and crafts, quilts, rugs and wall hangings, sewing, seniors division, special needs division, from scratch division, and the jolly all things Christmas division. Those wishing to enter are urged to pick up one of the 2013 fair booklets around our community, and all entries will be accepted only on Thursday, Aug. 8 from 5 p.m. and on Friday, Aug. 9 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the lobby area of the legion. All fair entries must be taken to the Ponoka Legion during these times, where entry fees will be collected and all competitors will be registered. Those wishing information on the various divisions are urged to get in touch with the co-ordinators who are listed in the booklet. You are invited to visit the Ponoka Agricultural Society website: at

Other great family events taking place over at the Calnash Ag Event Centre during the fair include: a ranch rodeo, mutton busting, Rainbow the Clown, community supper, petting zoo, stock dog demo, lumberjack show, greased pig races, bubble gum blowing contest, hobby horse making, hula hoop contest, gunny sack races, the Hot Diggity Dogs and farm safety displays. There will also be a community church on Sunday at the curling rink.

The Ponoka Agriculture Society executive includes: Sherry Gummow, Lauraine Weir, Verna Pohl, Cecilia Dykstra, Theresa Abt, Greg Bowie, Karen Douglass, Linc Drynan, Dale Faith, Inger Laing, Ken Pohl and Bruce Swift, who invite everyone to come on down, bring an entry and have a great time at the fair.


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