This is a grand display of the over 150 town and district citizens who took part in  the fun of a wild and woolly beard growing contest in support of the 1961 Ponoka Stampede. Some of the ‘fuzzy faces’ are: Norm Nelson

This is a grand display of the over 150 town and district citizens who took part in the fun of a wild and woolly beard growing contest in support of the 1961 Ponoka Stampede. Some of the ‘fuzzy faces’ are: Norm Nelson

Wild whiskers salute early Ponoka Stampedes

This week's Reflections looks at the Battle of the Beards in 1940.

The first Ponoka Stampede and family Fair was held in late July 1936 on the same spacious grounds where the Ponoka Stampede Association will soon be preparing to host their gala 80th edition of this classic rodeo event from June 27th to July 3, 2016. Over all those exciting years our Town and County has grown and thrived, and have always extended a warm welcome to thousands of fans and families to cheer on the world’s best rodeo and Chuckwagon competitors to a thrilling week of non-stop action and community celebrations and events that have now become a tradition during Canada’s largest 7-day rodeo right here in Ponoka.

1940 Battle of the Beards

Back in 1940 a hardy group of over 40 local gentlemen decided to throw away their razors and grow beards in support of the 4th edition of the annual one-day Ponoka Stampede in July. As their photos appeared in the Ponoka Herald each week they looked more and more like true characters of the wild-wild west and the community were really looking forward to cheering on the beard judging during the annual Stampede. Local popular businessman Don Sweet, who later served as the Ponoka Mayor from 1948-1950, was showing off his amazing bushy black beard one afternoon in the Leland tavern when he was approached by members of the Ferrybank Colony and invited to be an honorary member.

In 1961 the Ponoka Jaycees revitalized the Ponoka Stampede Beard growing contest with great gusto, and the response and enthusiasm of gents of all ages from town and districts resulted in over 150 competitors starting growth in the spring. Their hairy projects developed quickly and were claimed by the public to resemble wild facial appearances that included everything from scraggly to scanty peach fuzz, as well as fanciest, bushiest, most appealing to the ladies, and colorful, as some were even dyed to resemble famous early characters and historians. A panel of local judges had a tough time picking the prize winners, but they were all honoured at the gala two-day Ponoka Stampede.

Ponoka Herald editor praises beards

Flamboyant Ponoka Herald editor Jack Kelly wrote a crisp and supportive editorial in support of the Ponoka Stampede Beard growers, and here are some of the great comments.

*Our local community morale has been given a big boost by the 150 odd beards that have suddenly sprouted around the town as citizens join heartily in this Jaycee competition aimed at publicizing the Ponoka’s Stampede on June 30th and July 1, 1961.

*For one thing it definitely proves that the male can still put his foot down and his razor away when he really wants to, regardless of the distaff side of the household. Now we have real bristly evidence that this is not just a woman’s world after all, and it is just as we suspected that the boys have been just too gentlemanly and kind-hearted. Our little women know perfectly well that the men are completely innocent of all the charges that usually come their way, but they all just love to see how much they may react to them.

*These whiskers have also proved that Ponoka has not lost its envied ability to get together and put over a project that calls for everyone to pitch in. Go anywhere you like in Alberta and people will tell you that our Ponoka is one town that can really close up its ranks and get things done, and that fine spirit has pre- dominated in and around here for more than half a century. Probably the town has also been lucky to get a good bunch of boosters to start with and they have naturally attracted kindred spirits that have carried on for countless years.

*Good towns where it is pleasant to live and where business is good do not just happen, they are made that way by good Joes and Jills who are looking far into the future. The boys in their ‘beavers’ may be taking a little ribbing, but are very effectively putting over the fact that Ponoka is excited about preparing for another big rip-roaring Stampede.