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Organizers thrilled with the 88th annual Ponoka Stampede

Rick Wierzba, president of the Ponoka Stampede Association. (File photo)

Rick Wierzba, president of the Ponoka Stampede Association, really couldn't be more pleased with how the 88th annual event turned out.

"I think it was a great success," he said of this year's Stampede, which wrapped up its seven-day run on July 1.

"It went off very well. It takes a year of preparation to make it go, but we have a great board, committees, sub-committees, volunteers, plus everything that we get as far as contracts, and our production team - I thought it was all just excellent," he said.

Wierzba said about 800 volunteers helped out this year in a range of areas, which in turn often serves as a fundraiser for various groups in the community, too.

"So it works out well for everyone."

He also pointed out a few improvements to this year's event, which included more options for parking. He noted that traffic control was well-handled, and continually upgraded sound systems helped to keep volume levels in check as well.

He was also very happy to see that with as many people there are in attendance throughout the week, there is relatively little in the way of mischief in the area.

"That tells you what kind of crowd that we have - we have a crowd that is there to enjoy themselves, not a crowd there to cause trouble," he said.

As to the key events, there were new highlights for folks to enjoy.

"We added the junior bronc and bareback riders, and I thought that was a very nice addition - giving the younger up-and-comers a feel for what it's like to be in front of that big crowd. I think it went over really well."

The only hiccup during the week was one extremely rainy afternoon - on June 27 - which saw the midway close early and the cancellation of the chuckwagons.

But the concert featuring Meghan Patrick went ahead as scheduled.

In terms of attendance, he didn't have the final numbers yet but noted it was on par with last year's event.

Ultimately, Wierzba said he's very proud of the history of the Ponoka Stampede and of the commitment of the local community to make it happen.

"It's a passion for us I would say. For a lot of us, we've been involved with the Stampede for most of our lives," he said. 

"But it goes way beyond that. It is truly the community and the people that keep coming back year after year after year, too. You see familiar faces that have been there for a (long time). It's also their passion. It's not just the board that makes this all happen."

As to the ongoing success of the Ponoka Stampede after nearly nine decades, Wierzba said much of it boils down to a commitment to excellence.

"It's about having these people who look after all the details. It amazes me," he said, adding the team is always looking to make things even better year by year.

"For years, one of our past members used to say to me, so what are you going to do next year," he added with a laugh. 

That's become something of a motto for the team, he said.

For Wierzba, his roots with the Stampede and the community run deep.

After serving as vice president from 2021-23, he was elected as the president of the association for a two-year term late last year.

He also served on the board for about 30 years and volunteered for over a decade before that.

This also isn’t his first stint as president, having held the office just over 10 years ago. 

His long-time connection to the Stampede is also something of a family affair, as his grandfather Lawrence Doran was one of the organizers of Ponoka’s early rodeos and one of the first members of the Stampede board. 



Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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