The proof is in the pudding and for the Ponoka Stampede there is no doubt of that, especially with a recent international award.
From among 700 rodeos the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association (PSEA) recently received the Remuda Award from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
This is the first time a Canadian rodeo has won this award, which is a handcrafted bronze trophy. Joe Dodds, president of the Stampede Association, said it was a big surprise. He recognizes the volunteers and the community for helping create such a well-run rodeo.
“From the guy who opens the chute to the guy flipping burgers. It takes everybody,” he stated.
The Remuda Award was established in 2004 to recognize committees that provide the best horses for competitors.
Stampede directors work with Canadian stock contractors to ensure the best stock are available to cowboys: Vold Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, Outlawbuckers Rodeo Corp., Franklin Rodeo Co. Ltd., Kesler Rodeo, Harvey Northcott Rodeo.
The Ponoka Stampede has been working with Vold Rodeo for the last 60 years. Dodds said it is the “quality and quantity of good stock” that ensures everyone has an equal ride.
Bulldoggers, calf ropers and team ropers get two stock during the week long rodeo, and every steer wrestler gets a fresh steer, he added. “We’re one of the few rodeos that do that.”
Gary Harbin, director of stock, works with a sub-committee to ensure the best stock make it to the stampede. Harbin knows the stock companies will provide the best they have for Ponoka. “It’s called the ‘Code of the West.’”
“We follow the horses and follow the contractors at rodeos,” he added.
He feels the contractors know their horses better than anyone else and Harbin lets them decide what to bring in. The work does not stop there though, event representatives work with the contractors during the stampede to decide each day which horses come next.
“It takes everybody working together,” stated Harbin.
Despite being ready to travel to Las Vegas to receive the award at the National Finals Rodeo, Harbin realized his passport expired in August and he was unable to fly. In true cowboy fashion, past-president Rick Wierzba, who was in Las Vegas at the time, cancelled his tickets to a Shania Twain concert to receive the award on behalf of the Stampede Association.
Dodds feels much of the work conducted behind the scenes is as important as the main event. The work done is good enough to bring world-class cowboys from Canada and U.S. “You won’t get that quality of cowboys…It’s the stars of the stars that come here.”
Total prize money for the Ponoka Stampede is $323,250, which is one of the largest for a professional Canadian Rodeo.
The board of directors is already working on events for this year’s Ponoka Stampede and meets once a month to decide what will happen during the week of rodeo action.