By Adam Eisenbarth
The 74th annual Ponoka Stampede is underway and on June 28 some of the people who help make the event a success every year gathered at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort to kickoff the weeklong rodeo.
Announcer Les McIntyre emceed the event and thanked those who support the stampede, which continues to grow and gain recognition every year.
“It promises to be a great week of weather and we already know it promises to be a great week of rodeo and chuckwagons.”
This year’s event features a special visitor, Lecile Harris, a famous rodeo clown from Tennessee who is appearing in his first Ponoka Stampede. “I’m just glad to be here and I hope the folks enjoy the rodeo and what I do.”
Harris has performed at the Calgary Stampede and has always wanted to be a part of Ponoka’s big show.
“We’ve been trying to work it out where I could get up here. I’ve been in the business 55 years and I’ve been trying to get up to Ponoka all this time and it worked out this year.”
Clearly, word of the Ponoka Stampede has spread as Harris says in Tennessee the event has a reputation as one of the best.
“Even down there everyone knows what the Ponoka Stampede is. A lot of the cowboys down there and the acts would like to come up here.”
Along with other top quality acts scheduled to perform, McIntyre recognized the Crazy Cowgirls duo.
“We’ll feature our lovely gals who I’ve known since they started riding horses when they were about three years old and have developed into fine trick riders.”
Cassie Horner, along with Shelby Cummings, are sure to dazzle spectators with their variety of horse riding tricks.
Mayor Larry Henkelman and recognized what a special week this is for the town every year.
“During the event the population of Ponoka will increase tenfold and we look forward to having a successful stampede in a safe and enjoyable environment.”
The Ponoka Stampede is an enjoyable week for many spectators but for the cowboys and cowgirls, it’s all business with big money on the line.
With $40,000 up for grabs in each of the seven events, including the $10,000 Showdown bonuses, the money makes the Ponoka Stampede the largest prize money rodeo in North America over the July 1 weekend.
The Showdown pits the top four cowboys from the finals in each event for the bonus money.
The chuckwagon racing also has a lot of money on the line, featuring the $50,000 Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash.