Reflections: Ponoka Agricultural Society celebrates 115 years of fairs

Agricultural society’s history is filled with community spirit, support and even a few bumps

When the Ponoka and District Agricultural Society rolls out the welcome mat for their 2018 Home, Hobby, and Horticultural Show on Aug. 17 and 18 at the Royal Canadian Legion, it will celebrate another milestone in their longstanding tradition of community service.

The citizens of the new Town of Ponoka and from our surrounding districts were thrilled when the very first show was held in the summer of 1904 along the tracks, south of the Canadian Pacific Railway station, and the gala family event has grown by leaps and bounds since that time — over a span of 115 challenging, but exciting years.

Their ongoing vision has always been to be a progressive and innovative community leader that promotes agriculture and the dedication of their members, along with the great support of the community over the years, have achieved outstanding growth and successes along the way.

Long, colorful history

Our long-standing and 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 countless colorful August County Fairs and family attractions for young and old residents of 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.

In 1921, it would feature a two day show that attracted over 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 unique skills of sewing, carving, carpentry, 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 would later become the permanent home of our Ponoka Stampede.

After disbanding in 1957, the Ponoka Agricultural Society re-organized in 1961 and became aggressively involved with many local and district clubs, groups, sponsors and volunteers, who worked together to organize the county fair every August and have strived to add many new attractions and events along the way.

As a gala Centennial project in 1967, the Ag Society consolidated the annual event into one day at the Kinsmen Recreation Centre — adding such exciting display competitions as a junior garden program, hobbies and handicrafts. Then later, a school competition division which was kindly sponsored by Fort Ostell Chapter of the I.O.D.E.

Milestones of the Ponoka County Fair and Agricultural Society included the incorporation of the county fair in 1970, becoming a certified society in 1973 in order to be eligible for provincial grants, adding the exciting Soap Box Derby to the mix in 1974, as well as hosting other events throughout the year. Those included Black Elk Cutting (Sept. 5-9), Chore Horse Challenge (Sept. 29-30), Ranch Rodeo (Sept. 30th), an annual sponsored open ride and their Annual General Meeting on Dec. 10.

In 1976, the newly opened Ponoka Arena Complex would become the new home of the always popular August county fair show and colorful family events. Then in 1977, the weekly farmers’ market was sponsored by the Ag Society, while the popular fair would become 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 such as displays by the art club and potter’s guild, a petting zoo with exotic birds, antique displays, a 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 that were handed out each year at the fair had been kindly sponsored by local businesses, organizations and individuals.

Divisions which will be on display this year at the Legion will include — 4-H, photography, agriculture, junior agriculture, a junior division for ages 11 and under and 12-17 years of age, junior garden, a 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 colorful 2018 show booklets around our community and all entries will be accepted on Aug. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. and Aug. 17 from 8 to 11 a.m. — all at the Legion.

The show will be open Aug. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. then on Aug. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by the award ceremonies.

There will also be a community church service on Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. at the arena complex curling rink.

Everyone is welcome to visit the colorful show. More information on all the other fun and features available can be found at the Ponoka Agricultural Society website at www.ponokaagsociety.ca.

The 2018 Ponoka Ag Society Executive is made up of — president Sherry Gummow, vice-president George Uebelhardt, secretary Kerry Stevens, treasurer Joyce Winter, and directors Linc Drynan, Doug Hart, Shanon Archibald, Dennis Ecklund, Daren Schwieger, Nathan Stone and Ken Pohl.

They extend a congenial invitation to entries of all ages in all facets to take part in all aspects of the show, as well as encouraging the public to come out and enjoy the amazing skills and unique and natural displays of the keen and friendly competitions.

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