75th Ponoka Stampede salutes champions, families, and community! – Reflections of Ponoka

Johnny Swain’s chuckwagon crew is shown here celebrating their championship victory at the 1945 Ponoka Stampede. Pictured here from left to right are: John Swain

The April/May edition of the prestigious Canadian Country Magazine has firmly stated that the Ponoka Stampede’s Diamond Jubilee celebration might just be the highlight of our forthcoming rodeo year! To honour 75 glorious years of exciting history, growth, and successes the gala 2011 event from June 27th to July 3rd has been declared as the ‘Wild-Wild-West of 36 Stampede!’

It will all kick off with a spectacular opening night showdown on Monday, June 27th, that will feature top-notch rodeo action, sparkling entertainment, special guests, and lots of great surprises for the whole family. Following the colourful opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. the pro-rodeo events will begin, featuring the top contestants in the world against a rugged pen of Kessler stock. What comes next will be a very professional and thrilling infield act that comes all the way from Rousett, France and will most surely keep you on the edge of your seats. Mountain Edge Productions and the Ponoka Stampede will proudly present Christophe Megido and his dare devil band of wild-wild-west show performers.

In a change of tempo the magnificent evening saga will then shift to the grandstand stage for a concert performance by the multi- talented Canadian Country Music Award’s male artist of the year Gord Bamford. After the concert there will be an amazing fireworks’ display in the skies above the grandstand, followed by a dance to the wee-hours at the Stagecoach Saloon. This gala opening night party for the 75th Ponoka Stampede will also include many special guests and lots of surprises, with one lucky guest (18 and over) winning a brand new dodge truck! The evening will be the perfect opportunity for everyone to dress up in their best western duds of yesterday and today, then letting loose and enjoying seven super days and nights of hoopla and exciting events up at the Stampede grounds, and all around town!

Honouring past and present Ponoka Stampede champions, families, and community!

The Stampede Association has pulled out all stops to contact past and present Ponoka Stampede rodeo and chuck wagon champions from 1936- 2010, as well as their families. It is hoped that many of them will be able to return and be recognized, honoured, and to share the great memories during this unique and exciting Monday night opening celebration. Special recognition will also be extended to many of our past Rodeo Queens, as well as families, groups, and individuals from throughout the community, districts, and afar who have faithfully supported and promoted the Ponoka Stampede for so many successful years.

When Stampede Manager George MacKeddie and Ponoka Sports Association officials opened the first Ponoka Stampede on these same grounds in the summer of 1936, the wooden grandstand and fences were packed with thousands of spectators for the two-day rodeo and fair. Professional riding events at that first show were bareback riding and horse bucking, but there were also rough and tumble competitions such as the wild horse race and cow milking, pony races, Indian races, Shetland pony races, chariot races, steer wrestling, kids races, ball games, a parade, and lots of goodies and games for the whole family. The sport of rodeo would catch on very quickly across the prairies, as young ranch hands honed their skills on rough stock in makeshift corals or at country picnics. They would travel for many miles, often on horseback, to try their luck at weekend rodeos and fairs, relishing in the glory and glamour, hoping to win a few bucks or a shiny buckle, but quite often biting the infield dust, and receiving only a big cheer from the appreciative crowds. Of course the rodeo purses have now zoomed into the millions at countless rodeos throughout Canada and the United States, where many veterans and up and coming young men and women are now challenging the rugged stock and talented competition all year round. What will always remain in this great rodeo tradition will be the extreme efforts of each and every contestant, the roar of the crowds, and the great memories of all those happy-go-lucky cowboys and promoters who got it all started on the rugged prairies so many years ago. Many became household names in the rodeo world, and many others would emerge to take their place over all those thrilling years of keen and rugged competition in all events.

The rugged sport of bull riding was added to the rodeo circuit in 1937, calf roping in 1944, steer decorating and wrestling in 1948, ladies’ barrel racing in 1966, and team roping in 1989. From the rough and dusty journeys of the old cook wagon during cattle drives or round-ups the wild sport of chuckwagon racing was born, which attracted thousands of avid fans to all areas of the oval tracks. Theo Thage won the first Ponoka Stampede Chuckwagon derby in 1939, and over the decades this thrilling event would attract such powerful champions as Ronnie Glass, Bill Greenwood, Ralph Vigen, Dale Flett, Hally Walgenbach, George Normand, Kelly Sutherland, Reg Johnstone, Jerry Bremnar, Ward Willard, Mike Vigen, the Bensmillers, the Davids, and all the rest! Of course none of us will ever forget a rambunctious local lad by the name of Tommy Dorchester, who won the Ponoka Stampede Chuckwagon Championship four times, burned up the circuit for several decades, and left a rugged tradition that his family carries around the track to this day.

Our town and district has produced many rodeo stars and champions over the years, including the likes of Everett, Bill and Cliff Vold, Em Pritchard, Ernie Doran, Frankie Bailer, the Butterfields, John Dodds, and others, along with perennial Stock contractors Harry and Wayne Vold, and on and on! Through the avid ongoing efforts of several generations of the Ponoka Stampede Association, the keen support of our great community, and the dedication of hundreds of volunteers, the Ponoka Stampede has proudly reached this 75th Anniversary milestone.  Everyone is invited to the one and only Wild Wild West of 36 Stampede party and reunion from June 27th to July 3rd, 2011.

It promises to be a really big show!

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