The newest Ponoka Stampede Queen was chosen on Monday, April 13 and the former Ponoka resident is delighted to have been awarded the crown after competing in her first queen pageant.
“I’m very surprised. I’m shocked and in awe,” said Ashley Akkermans, 22.
Akkermans says it was the Ponoka Stampede that inspired her to get into riding and into the cowgirl culture. “It’s so cool to have a childhood dream come true,” she said.
Akkermans grew up on a farm with a mixed operation outside of Ponoka, but did not begin riding or 4H until well into her teens.
One day her father told her to go out to the barn after work. Inside she found two horses, the partially broke appaloosa became her primary riding horse. “Even though he had a lot of problems, I made it work because I wanted to be a cowgirl so bad,” she recalled.
While she doesn’t have the same kind of rodeo background other pageant contestants might, Akkermans has been attending the Ponoka Stampede all her life and is thrilled how her first pageant progressed. “I’m really honoured to compete for this rodeo,” she said.
This year’s pageant included only two contestants, the second being Rachelle Dandurand, 21. She competed for the Ponoka queen title last year and has been riding horses since she was four years old.
“Last year was definitely a learning experience for me,” said Dandurand.
On the day of the competition, the two contestants arrived at the Calnash Age Event Centre to introduce themselves to the judging panel before the competing in the horsemanship portion on two horses they had not met before. This was followed by personal interviews and modeling.
‘They were both really great. They both really impressed us,” said 2014 Ponoka Stampede Queen Katy Lucas.
“It was splitting hairs. They were both really great in different aspects and that’s what made it so tough,” she added.