As disappointing for many as the cancellation of this year’s Ponoka Stampede was, the full impact of it will be spread over the next eight months to a year.
That’s because the Stampede organization operates year-round and is tremendously integrated into the community.
“The Stampede supports a lot of local organizations and businesses so the pain will be felt everywhere,” said Bruce Harbin, Ponoka Stampede Association president.
“And the Stampede is very fortunate to have such great community support, so we support them back.”
Harbin explained that more than 1,000 volunteers and a long list of organizations put in the effort to make the event run so smoothly.
“They make up what the Stampede is and make this event as good as it is and help us achieve our goals,” he said.
“(The cancellation) will take a big bite out of the local economy and the community, but we are so blessed to have everyone that puts this together for the betterment of the Stampede and the community.
“What people need to understand is that our first word is Ponoka and there would be no Stampede without all of these people, businesses and the community doing their part to help and continue to grow this event. It isn’t just one week each year, but the campground starting to fill up starting by the May long weekend, people spending some vacation time and money before and after as well as the businesses that work with us to prepare for it. Without them, there is no Stampede.”
Highlighting this is the financial contributions the Stampede makes locally.
There are the various purchases — running the gamut from catering and office supplies to purchases of liquor along with electrical and other professional work — that amount to about $800,000 annually.
Tack on the more than $50,000 each year paid for property taxes and utilities, the over $42,000 spent on expenses for the parade and local community donations of almost $33,000, then follow that up with the more than $250,000 given out to several non-profit sports and community groups for their volunteer work during the Stampede and the impact of the cancellation grows.
That said though, he added it’s too early right now to say whether donations to the community will completely disappear.
“With no revenue it’s hard to say, but just to be clear, the Stampede will do what it can, just as it has always done,” Harbin said.
To further illustrate the affect of the cancelled event, Harbin pointed out a survey completed a few years ago showed what kind of economic impact the Stampede has on Ponoka and the surrounding area.
“The survey stated that for every dollar spent on ticket sales, that $80 was spent in and around Ponoka,” Harbin said.
“And that’s just when the event is going on. The Stampede operates year-round and supports the community.”
With a rather conservative calculation of 75,000 in annual average attendance and a ticket price of $25, the Stampede’s estimated economic return to the community is around $150 million each year.
As for sponsors, Harbin explained the decision to cancel came early enough that much of that money wasn’t in their hands yet, which has allowed for some options going forward.
“Everyone has their own bronc to ride and no one blanket can cover every sponsor’s situation,” he said.
“We are still finalizing all of the details, but it can be said that sponsors are going to have the same option as ticket holders — if they desire, they can extend their deposits to 2021 or get it back if they need it. We want to treat everyone fair and honest.”
Harbin added that planning is already underway for the 2021 edition set for June 26 to July 4, which gives room for four concert nights.
“These are really good dates and I think this will be the best Stampede ever. They say that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’” he said.
“And I believe that once this is behind us and people start to return back to a normal routine, they will welcome the Stampede with a huge ‘waahoo.’”
For Jeff Robson, general manager of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA), that is his hope as well.
“While it was disappointing, our stance was to leave that (decision) up to the local rodeo associations. We were there to provide support, but the reality was when (Alberta’s) chief medical health officer said no to large gatherings until after Aug. 31, it was taken out of everyone’s hands,” Robson said, who noted the deadline for a decision about the 2020 Canadian Finals Rodeo slated for Red Deer Nov. 3 to 8 is a moving target right now.
“It’s been hard to wrap our heads around it all. As for the CFR, a decision on that is being left for a bit longer, given that opening up for gatherings may come a few weeks before our dates. We hope to have some direction though before then. However, the bigger question is with all the rodeo cancellations, who would qualify and how?”
Naomi Akkermans will continue her reign as Miss Ponoka Stampede for another year, after the Stampede association decided it was the best course to take.
“The directors recognize that one of the highlights of being Miss Ponoka Stampede is being a part of rodeo week and visiting other rodeos. With so many cancellations, a 2020 queen wouldn’t get to have all the amazing experiences of being Miss Ponoka Stampede,” she said in an interview.
“There will be a lot of people, including me, changing their summer plans with the Stampede being cancelled. The community is what drives our rodeo. We can’t do it without the volunteers, fans, contestants or sponsors and have to put them first in these trying times. There is a need to keep the community safe and be more cautious with an event on such a large scale. I feel very privileged that the committee has asked me to continue my reign.”
Her plans for the next year include spending more time in the U.S. going to some rodeos, attending some smaller community events and working on a virtual lesson project to create grade-appropriate videos for teachers.