It’s become the rodeo with the largest prize money in North America held over the July 1 weekend.
At Ponoka’s 76th Stampede there is $45,000 up for grabs in each of the seven events, including the new Rodeo Showdown, and matching the top four in each event with a $10,000 bonus.
Along with prize money going to the riders, $3,000 will also go to the top saddle bronc, bull and bareback stock animal.
“It’s one of the largest payouts in the game,” said Les McIntyre, master of ceremonies of the Ponoka Stampede press conference and one of the announcers at the Stampede.
The press conference, held at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort, honored the past, present and future generations of rodeo athletes, founders of the Ponoka Stampede, and its sponsors.
A special thanks was given to the Senators of the Ponoka Stampede; Don Brennan, Ralph Vold, Shorty Jones and Frank Mickey.
Thanks was also given to the businesses in the oil and gas industry of Ponoka and central Alberta.
“We’re pleased this year is a salute to the oil and gas industry,” said Mayor Larry Henkelman. “Their (the businesses) philosophy of giving back to the community is evident.”
Rodeo cowboys, including Ponoka native and steer wrestler Chance Butterfield, were given a thanks for competing each year and keeping the rodeo spirit alive.
“They say the hometown rodeo is the hardest to win,” said McIntyre.
But he was confident that Ponoka’s boys were going to do well this year.
Butterfield is looking to make Ponoka his big win this year. “No big wins yet, just placing in the middle of the pack,” Butterfield said.
But he’s going in with strategy. “Just be aggressive.”
Arleta Bowhay, Miss Rodeo Canada, will also be at the Stampede. She was crowned last November and will keep her title until the rodeo finals in November, 2012.
Even before she was crowned, Bowhay liked the competition against the three other girls.
“We all got along really good. We were in a competition but it wasn’t a competition,” Bowhay said. “I still borrow stuff from Miss Okotoks. She lends me clothes.”
Bowhay caught what her father calls “Queen Syndrome” from her cousin Miss Rodeo Sundre ’98. This year she’ll go to Australia to ride in the Darwin Finals in August.
Bowhay has teamed up with an organization called Swap to Stop, along with other charities. Swap to Stop will be making its first appearance at the Stampede this year.