The Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA) officially announced the cancellation of the 2020 Ponoka Stampede in a news release on April 29.
“On behalf of the Ponoka Stampede Board of Directors it is with heavy heart that today I officially announce the postponement of the 84th annual Ponoka Stampede,” said PSA president Bruce Harbin in the release.
The Ponoka Stampede will return June 28 to July 4 in 2021.
“We, the Ponoka Stampede Association understand and respect the restrictions placed on gatherings.
“The first word in ‘Ponoka Stampede’ is Ponoka, and to us that’s always what comes first, our community, our volunteers, our fans, our sponsors, our contractors and our contestants; the entire Ponoka Stampede Family.
“We hope you all remain safe and healthy in these unprecedented times.”
Ticket holders have the choice to roll their tickets over to the 2021 Ponoka Stampede or get a refund. The ticket office will be open for refunds or roll over business from May 19 to June 19. No refunds will be available after June 19.
“Remember folks, as long as there is a sunset there will always be a west.”
On Thursday, April 23, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s update pronouncement that restrictions on mass gatherings would apply to annual summer festivals.
According to Harbin, although Dr. Hinshaw’s update pretty much made the decision for them, the timing of PSA officially announcing the cancellation of the 2020 Ponoka Stampede was a result of waiting to meet together as a board on April 28 — a meeting that had been scheduled since the beginning of the month.
At the last board meeting on April 1, the possibility of postponing or cancelling the Stampede had been discussed, but it was decided to wait for further direction from the province.
The PSA had already previously announced the delay of 2020 grand entry try-outs and the postponement of the WPCA tarp auction, which was set for May 1.
In an interview, Harbin said the restrictions were put in place by educated people, and the PSA has the utmost concern for everyone in the community, but that doesn’t mean the situation isn’t frustrating.
“With this pandemic, if you’re a human being, you’re likely upset about it in one way or another.”
The association will be busy over the next couple of weeks, ensuring volunteers, sponsors, contractors, suite holders, and ticket holders are all treated fairly and honestly, though the work of putting on the Ponoka Stampede never really ends.
“The Ponoka Stampede is a big family and we have to make sure everyone is taken care of,” said Harbin, adding there are sub committees that need to meet, letters to write and planning to do.
“We’re always in a state of going forward … it never stops,” he said, explaining that the one week of rodeo that people see is the result of year-round planning and dedication of board members, volunteers and the whole Ponoka Stampede community.
“We hope that when all this COVID-19 settles down that everyone’s families are safe and well and this does not touch our community like it has in some others … we hope they’re healthy and able to enjoy the 2021 Ponoka Stampede.”
Planning for the 2021 Ponoka Stampede will begin right away, and Harbin says it will be the “biggest, best Ponoka Stampede ever, God willing and the creek don’t rise.”
Visit ponokastampede.com in the coming days for more information on ticket refunds or visit their Facebook page.
Bred Heifer Cattle Raffle
The Bred Heifer Cattle raffle will remain for 2020. Draws will happen at the regularly scheduled times throughtout June 25 to July 1 on the Stampede grounds, and tickets are on sale now.
Typically, the PSA enjoys a sold-out cattle raffle each year, and they hope this year will be no exception.
“We hope the community gets behind it and it goes forward in a positive way,” said Harbin.
The draws will be held during scheduled times at the Stampede grounds, allowing draw winners to make back some of their money, and one lucky winner will either become an instant rancher or walk away with $75,000 cash, says Harbin.
Harbin jokes, saying the cattle raffle may be “the best money made in the cow business this year.”
The bulls were donated by Brian and Judy Sutter of Atlasta Angus.
Tickets are available online at ponokastampede.com. They can also be purchased in person at Jones Boys Saddlery and Western Wear, Ponoka Co-op Oils, Ponoka Veterinary Clinic, Central Veterinary Clinic, VJV Auction and Ponoka Fertilizer.
The postponement of the 2020 Ponoka Stampede is also a great loss to the town, including community groups that rely on the funding they raise by working food booths and other activities during the Ponoka Stampede week.
The PSA conducted a survey a number of years ago that was handed out to the fans in the grandstands, and asked several questions about their spending, according to Harbin.
Visitors responded with how much they spend on gas, food and other items in town during their stay.
The survey concluded that for every ticket dollar sold, $80 went into the community.
“The community will be loosing that $80 for every ticket dollar sold, so that is very sad,” said Harbin.
“The part that’s really painful is the groups that raise their funding for the year through the Ponoka Stampede.’
Some of those groups include the Ponoka Lions, Ponoka Pool Sharks, the Ponoka Air Cadets, Ponoka Minor Hockey as well as local 4-H clubs.
“It’s a long list.”