CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
It’s going to be a night to remember.
Expect the Ponoka Stampede’s 75th anniversary opening day to live up to the hype and set the stage for Canada’s biggest seven-day rodeo.
Slow and steady, the day begins with a farmers market in the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex and begins to pick up steam at 4 p.m. when the Casino opens up.
The Stampede really shifts gears at 6:30 when the Pro Rodeo begins and the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world take the stage to show off their talents and compete for thousands of dollars.
Then, performing their first show on Canadian soil, The Wild Wild West Show will entertain the crowd. The act comes from Rousset, France and features musician, actor, stuntman and trick rider Christophe Megido and his band of performers.
The act is described as equine gymnastics and is sure to amaze.
When the dirt finally gets a chance to settle it’s time to pull in the stage and dim the lights because central Alberta’s own Gord Bamford plans on blowing the doors off of opening night at the Stampede.
“It’s going to be great,” said Bamford who was preparing for a gig in Winnipeg on the day we spoke. “I just grew up down the road and I’ve been coming to that rodeo since I was a kid and I am really excited.”
One really interesting aspect to Bamford headlining the show is the fact he started out as a young artist in the talent show many years ago. The Stampede has really become a snapshot of the evolution of the career of the now megastar.
“The coolest part about it is I’ve played every stage at that stampede except for the grandstand. I started off at the karaoke contest and the talent show and eventually I was playing the beer gardens right on the grounds,” said Bamford.
“Then I went down to the big one, I always had a dream to play the cabaret in the arena and I think I played that four or five times and now I’m playing the main show there and to top it off it’s the 75th anniversary of it, so it’s pretty special for me.”
Bamford is excited to play what he called “the best stampede in the world,” and hopes his weekend in Ponoka doesn’t end on the opening night.
“I’m hoping I can spend the week there and take the whole rodeo in. My family is really into rodeo and they love it and hopefully I can bring my grandma out and some relatives out to watch the rodeo and take it all in.”
He admitted he tried his hand at some rodeo events when he was a youngster but thought he better leave the riding up to the professionals.
“When I was younger I tried some steer wrestling but it just wasn’t for me,” said Bamford with a chuckle. “I was kind of a wimp when it came down to that but I’ll try anything once and I might try bulldogging one day or roping but I think I’ll stay away from the bulls.”
After a huge 2010 that saw the Lacombe singer win the Canadian Country Music Award’s male artist of the year, album of the year and video of the year, Bamford has stayed true to his roots and was excited to hear the talent show would be back at the Stampede.
“It’s a great thing that they’re doing and you never know what can happen. That’s really where it started for me…there have been quite a few success stories come from the Ponoka Stampede.”
The accolades continue to pile up but one award Bamford was particularly honored to receive was the humanitarian award.
His personal charity is rapidly approaching the $1 million mark and he plans to personalize a guitar that the Seafield Ladies are currently selling draw tickets for.
“I’m big into charity work and to be an artist like I am it’s not like you go to work and put in a nine to five. My success strictly hinges on what I do as an artist and mainly on people buying tickets and supporting you by buying records and it only makes sense that you give back to those people and then some. Anytime I can do any charity work it’s a nobrainer,” said Bamford.
Another no-brainer is getting your tickets early. The opening show is sure to sell out and the honor to play in front of hard-working Albertans isn’t lost on the small town artist.
“I’m really excited and the people who put the stampede on do a hell of a job. There’s not many guys in the world that can say they got a chance to play the 75th anniversary Ponoka Stampede on a Monday night to kick it all off, in fact it will never happen again. It’s a dream come true for me, it’s a chance of a lifetime and we definitely won’t be disappointing anybody,” said Bamford.
And when the lights finally do come down on the opening act of the show fans can walk to the Stagecoach Saloon and possibly see the next Gord Bamford singing and strumming the guitar.