Superb rodeo action and a packed slate of non-stop entertainment and special events made for another outstanding Ponoka Stampede, organizers say.
“The week went really well — it was a great event this year,” said Jason Cline, Stampede president.
“The weather was great for 80 per cent of the event and as I said to a few people, we saw a lot of smiles through the week,” he added.
“This year, we also heard a lot about the production of the show. It’s always a balance for us to keep the traditions of the Stampede alive, doing what we have done for the past 87 years — keeping the traditions of rodeo and the cowboy/cowgirl western lifestyle going while at the same time, adding events and different things to add to that fan base,” he explained.
Cline said that at this point, organizers figure at least 110,000 people flocked to the site.
“That’s over the entire week — those who bought tickets and we scanned their tickets on the way through the door,” said Cline, who has been Stampede president for the past two years.
Last year, the Stampede’s opening was dealt a tragic blow with the death of a longtime volunteer due to an accident during the opening portion of the event.
The woman fell off her horse while bringing in a group of between 25 to 30 horses into the infield, as the wranglers were practicing for the traditional wild horses stampede that is part of the introduction segment of each rodeo performance’s opening ceremonies.
Cline said any changes that needed to be made going forward from then were certainly in place for this year, adding that the goal is to keep the health and safety plan at the forefront for all the Stampede’s workers and volunteers at all times.
The only other issues this year included the cancellation of singer Megan Patrick’s show, but that was due to travel delays in Nashville.
“That day, there were 10,000 flights cancelled,” said Cline.
Fireworks were late on Saturday night as well, due to a very busy slate of activities beforehand including chuckwagon racing, PBR as well as various presentations that had been scheduled, too, he said.
Along with his role as president, Cline has served on the Stampede board for about 13 years.
“I’ve been involved with it for 30-plus years,” said Cline, who is a Ponoka native as well.
Ultimately, for Cline, the Stampede represents a time for the community to come together.
“That’s a big one for me. We also couldn’t do this without the volunteers and our whole community behind us. And we do realize that it does create some challenges for the community.
“But I walk about and see multiple clubs working food booths, selling tickets and parking cars — all of those things — and they aren’t only clubs from Ponoka, but also from Bashaw, Lacombe, Red Deer. For a lot of them, this is their major fundraiser,” he said, adding that all together, more than 800 volunteers sign on to keep things running smoothly during the week.
He said some folks have been volunteering at the Stampede for upwards of 35 to 40 years.
“We have a number of families, too. We even have a couple of volunteers who come from Calgary every day.”
Cline also said visitors come from far and wide — from across Canada, and part of the U.S.
“And a lot of international guests. This year, we also had a group of international agricultural reporters. There were 50 of them, and they had a kind of convention here,” he said.
Other highlights this year included a marriage proposal and a young visitor who was able to attend thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
“Those are the things that also make it so worthwhile.”
Plus, the event was broadcast live on the Cowboy Channel across North America which only bodes well for future Stampedes, he said.
“For next year, we are going to see the number of tourists increase because of that.”