The Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA) is waiting for the horn to go.
No decision has yet been made about whether the 2021 Ponoka Stampede will go ahead as usual, take a different form, or have to be cancelled altogether. It all depends on what happens over the next month or so with provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
PSA president Bruce Harbin says nothing has changed since their AGM back in November 2020, and the plan has always been, and remains, to go forward until they know absolutely that they won’t be able to.
“Where we stand is where we’ve always stood,” he said.
Pro Rodeo Canada (CPRA) issued an update on April 4, of discussions between the rodeo community and Alberta Health.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw sent a letter to the CPRA, with some possible timelines for rodeos this summer.
It was estimated that 50 per cent of fixed seating capacity to a maximum of 500 fans outdoors could be allowed by late June, and all restrictions on capacity might be removed by late July, depending on active case numbers.
Harbin added that Premier Jason Kenny and Hinshaw seemed to have a positive outlook, with the continued rollout of vaccines.
Whether restrictions will ease enough in time to make any form of Ponoka Stampede feasible, time will only tell.
Right now, he says the association is like “kids at the Christmas tree,” waiting and excited to see what will happen.
“Hopefully it comes in time for the Ponoka Stampede,” he said.
“I’m not sure that anybody has a crystal ball.”
A final decision will need to made no later than June 1, and preferably by late May, he says.
The PSA is currently speaking with their sponsors to discuss if they’d be on board with a smaller-scale Stampede than they’re used to.
Ponoka Stampede has been built on the reputation of having the best athletes, with world champion contestants, the best stock and the best fans, he says.
Harbin says right now they’re just polling sponsors to gauge their interest, and not holding them to any hard commitments for sponsorship dollars.
He added that they remain community-oriented, and local clubs and volunteers have expressed their support, should the Stampede be able to go ahead this year.
Whether the 2021 Ponoka Stampede will proceed will come down to if restrictions ease enough to allow enough athletes to take part and for enough fans in seats to make putting on the seven-day outdoor rodeo economically feasible.
“If the restrictions are relaxed or removed, the possibility is there that would could put something out for the contestants, the crowd and the chuckwagons,” said Harbin.
A lot of the top-notch Canadian rodeo athletes have been competing in circuits in the States, and with border closures and quarantine requirements for those returning to Canada, Harbin says he isn’t sure how many they would be able secure for the Ponoka Stampede.
“I don’t think it would be viable for them to come back into our restricted world,” he said.
“That’s a big hurdle.”
If the 2021 Ponoka Stampede does go forward, there is a possibility of a two-header to fill up slots.
The PSA is considering live-streaming the event if spectators aren’t able to attend in-person, or perhaps a combination of both.
The World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) has already cancelled two shows scheduled for the 2021 WPCA Pro Tour: the Grande Prairie Stompede and races scheduled for Saskatoon in June.
The PSA is still in talks with the WCPA, says Harbin.
Harbin says if it turns out that the 2021 Ponoka Stampede doesn’t go ahead, it won’t be because they didn’t try.
“I look forward to the days when the pandemic is behind us,” said Harbin.
When the 2020 Ponoka Stampede was cancelled, ticket holders had the option of receiving a refund, or rolling over their tickets to 2021, which many did.
Tickets for 2021 have not gone on sale as of yet, as the PSA felt it was in their best interests to wait and see what capacity they’d be allowed, and to see what seats were already sold from the year before, and move forward from there, says Harbin.
The 2021 Cattle Raffle has gone ahead, with tickets being on sale for several months now.
“Ticket sales are going good,” said PSA board member Terry Jones, who is in charge of the cattle raffle this year.
There have been a lot of online sales, and Jones says he finds people have been buying tickets, not only because they want a shot at wining, but because they want to support the Stampede.
Profits from the cattle raffle will help get the Stampede through this difficult financial challenge, with there being no Stampede in 2020, he says.
“It’s going to pay for everyday expenses to run the facility so it’s very important to sell it out this year,” said Jones.
Tickets are available in-person at Jones Boys Saddlery and Western Wear, Ponoka Co-op Oils, Ponoka Vet Clinic, Vold Jones Vold Auction, Trouw Nutrition and Ponoka Fertilzer or can be purchased online at ponokstampede.com.
The early bird draw will be held on May 14, and the winner will walk away with $2,000 in cash.
“Our goal is to sell it out this year so if you’re going to purchase tickets than get them before the early bird draw.”
The final winner of the Cattle Raffle will get to choose between 50-bred heifers or $75,000 in cash.
‘It’s a great Father’s Day present or a Mother’s Day present,” said Jones.