By Sam Donnelly
For Ponoka News
After being crowned Miss Ponoka Stampede in 2019, Naomi Akkermans has spent her reign promoting both the Ponoka Stampede and rodeo in general, while travelling to rodeos all over Canada and the United States.
Akkermans said that while she has been queen she has tried to spread the message that rodeo is for everyone, even though it can feel inaccessible to newcomers.
“The sport is standing here with open arms,” said Akkermans.
Akkermans grew up on a feedlot outside of Ponoka and at first no one in the family had any experience with rodeo. She had a variety of other interests including competitive swimming and figure skating, but didn’t start being a part of the rodeo until her and her family started volunteering at the Ponoka Stampede.
Akkermans and her family volunteered by selling programs until at the age of 16 when Gary (Doc) Harbin allowed her to become a wrangler for the Ponoka Stampede.
Akkermans mentioned that Doc Harbin really took a chance by allowing someone with little to no rodeo experience to ride for the Stampede. Akkerman’s sister was crowned rodeo queen in 2015 and, of course, Akkermans won in 2019.
After her term as rodeo Queen ends Akkermans has said that she will no longer be competing, but hopes to stay involved in the Ponoka Stampede going forward.
Akkermans made special mention of Ponoka Princesses, a draw girls aged eight to 12 can enter to win a day with Akkermans and Miss Rodeo Canada Jayden Calvert, which will hopefully encourage them to get involved with the rodeo.
When she’s not in the saddle Akkermans is a teacher of language arts and social studies at Bluffton School.
To win the title of rodeo queen, applicants must be able to demonstrate their riding skills as well as their knowledge of the community and the rodeo in an interview portion. Applicants will also be asked to show their modelling ability.
When asked how she stood out she said that she worked hard to get to know the judges and educate herself on a variety of topics, first and foremost being the Stampede itself.
“You could see my passion for the Ponoka Stampede,” said Akkermans.
Akkermans said that the best peice of advice she could give to applicants is to be themselves and to come out and try.
“Even if you don’t become Ponoka Queen, you become part of the family,” said Akkermans.
Applications for the Ponoka Rodeo Queen close on April 1 and the selection process will take place on April 21.
The successful candidate will receive their crown as part of the Chuckwagon Tarp Auction on May 6, with Akkermans presenting the crown to the new Ponoka Rodeo Queen at the event.
The application PDF, competition rules and requirements can all be found on the Ponoka Stampede website. The Ponoka Stampede will be from June 27 to July 3.