By Tiffany Williams
The biggest smiles that you find at the Ponoka Stampede won’t be from the cowboys winning the big money it will be from the children who will be participating in the ninth annual Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge.
The Rodeo Challenge will take place on June 28 at 11 a.m. in the infield of the stampede grounds.
This year there are 26 children registered for the Rodeo Challenge with 18 new children who will have the opportunity to experience the rodeo at a whole new level.
“We are always aiming for new children to come out but we like to have kids come back as well,” said one of the organizers Marjorie Krossa. “We usually try to balance it out. Families are really understanding and I want to treat everyone equally.”
The children will be paired up with a cowboy, chuckwagon driver or outrider and they will go around to different modified rodeo events.
The event includes hand pulled mini-chuckwagons, calf-roping, flag picking (children get to ride a real horse), a modified bucking bronc (teeter totter), time on a tame bull, face painting and carriage rides.
The event is organized by Marjorie and Ken Krossa and Lynden and Diane Vold who got together after a similar event in Calgary. The Krossa’s daughter Skylar has Down Syndrome. They tried to get her into the Giddy Up Rodeo in Calgary and after four years there was space. The group went to the Ponoka Stampede Association and they supported the idea and gave them seed money to build some of the props. They also did a lot of fundraising, took notes from the Calgary trip and started their own rodeo.
Krossa says the kids really look forward to it they love coming and going to all the events.
“I love seeing the kids get so excited. They are jumping up and down and can’t believe that the trophies and pictures are all for them,” said Krossa. “The whole family gets to enjoy the day but the child is the centre of attention for that time. They are the star of the show.”
Chuckwagon driver Mark Sutherland has volunteered at the Rodeo Challenge for quite a few years. He says that it is a really neat event and he still keeps in touch with some of the families. He thinks that it is a monumental job for the organizers and that he has the easy job.
“I show up with a clean shirt, a nice hat and I have a really good time. It is a really humbling experience and an honour to hang out with the kids,” said Sutherland. “The kids look forward to it and it makes you feel so good and they have a ball.”
This year there are four children participating from Ponoka and others are from Bentley, Red Deer, Camrose and Stettler. The whole event is free for the families and the children.
After all the events are over all of the kids get a trophy and their picture taken. A hot dog and juice lunch is provided for the kids after that they head to watch the big show as the Stampede Association donates four ticket per child so they can head back to watch the afternoon rodeo events.
“It’s important for kids with any disability to be the focus of any event,” said Krossa. “It’s for the children. Not very many rodeos do something like this. The kids enjoy it and they want to come back it is great!”
If you would like more information on the Rodeo Challenge contact Marjorie or Ken Krossa at (403) 783-3507 or Lynden or Diane Vold at (403) 783-6746. You can also visit their website www.ponokastampederodeochallenge.ca.