Jent and Michelle with older daughter Zoë and their newest addition, Cassidy Sita Hoekstra, born Jan. 4 at 11:10 p.m. Photo courtesy of the Hoekstra family

Year in review 2019

Looking back at some of the big stories of the past year

Here’s a look at some of the big stories and events in and around Ponoka in 2019.


  • Michelle and Jent Hoekstra were the parents of Ponoka’s first baby of 2019, born on Jan. 4.
  • Well-known Ponoka rodeo legend Bud Butterfield passed away Jan. 18.
  • The town took out $1.7 million from reserves to pay for improvements to its new building.


  • The town answered questions regarding its lease on the new civic building.
  • The torch relay for the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer came to Ponoka.
  • Right to Farm Society launched a legal fight against Ponoka County in an attempt to strike down the approved Northwest Area Structure Plan.
  • Ponoka County increased financial backing for National Tire Recycling to the tune of $1 million as progress was made on clearing out the approximately 5,400 giant mining tires.


  • Gary “Doc” Harbin was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in late February before passing away on March 9.
  • Mayor Rick Bonnett retreated on his threat to withhold education portion of property taxes.
  • The provincial election hit the road in central Alberta as campaigns got underway.


  • Ponoka-Lacombe candidates were quizzed by a large crowd at the chamber election forum in Ponoka.
  • The town voted to end membership in the regional economic development group.
  • Ron Orr was re-elected in a landslide victory in the provincial election.
  • Ponoka County still had concerns with a proposed cannabis operation.


  • The town’s new civic building, later officially renamed the Ponoka Civic Centre, celebrated its grand opening on May 24.
  • A cannabis production facility near Maskwacis was approved by Ponoka County, with a late objection by Samson Band rejected by council.
  • The Ponoka Stampede chuckwagon tarp auction brought in more than $375,000 and Naomi Akkermans was named the 2019 Stampede Queen.
  • The town’s 2019 budget included a 2.2 per cent property tax increase.



  • Big Valley cowboy Zeke Thurston captured his second Ponoka Stampede championship on Canada Day.
  • CP Rail officially renamed railway signs “Maskwacis” in a ceremony.
  • A hearing was adjourned on the gravel pit proposal citing a need for further information.
  • Ponoka County was seeing an unsettling trend of unpaid property taxes piling up.


  • The Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals were held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre from Aug. 21 to 25.
  • Ponoka is now one of several stops for a new bus service.

  • Ponoka County provided financing to a Rimbey company for Internet infrastructure upgrades.
  • Crowds enjoyed warm weather at the annual Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow.


  • The 15th annual Ponoka Downhill Derby was held on Sept. 7 in Riverside.
  • The final Walking in Spirit Suicide Awareness rally and walk was held in Maskwacis.
  • Hockey clubs scrambled for ice times because of repairs that were needed to the arena cooling system.
  • Ponoka County was among municipalities expecting a big hit as the province revamped how they pay for policing.



  • Schools around the town and county as well as the Ponoka Legion held Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • Ponoka Festival of Trees, held at the Stagecoach Saloon from Nov. 14 to 17, was another great success, with this being the first year the event was organized by the Ponoka and District Health Foundation.
  • WCPS was hit with a $3 million in lost funding following provincial budget cuts and insurance hikes, with STAR Catholic seeing funding drop $2.1 million.
  • A local group came before town council hoping to find support for an overnight homeless shelter program.


  • A fire Dec. 1 burned down Family Meats Ltd.’s slaughter plant in Ponoka’s industrial park. The business plans to rebuild.
  • Dr. Brendan Bunting retired on Dec. 20 after 40 years as a family physician in Ponoka.
  • The controversial gravel pit on McKelvie road was approved by Ponoka County, but must abide by 51 development conditions.
  • A Ponoka group more than doubled its KidSport fundraising goal during a worldwide 24-hr workout challenge.
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Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett (third from right) spoke to the media in late-2018 about the town’s decision to not sign off on the school tax requisition unless the province comes to the table with some grant options. In March, Bonnett rescinded that decision in light of the province not backing down with its threat to pull available funding. Ponoka News file

A large crowd of residents got to ask questions of the candidates running in the Lacombe-Ponoka constituency during the Mar. 28 forum. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Mayor Rick Bonnett speaks at the grand opening of the Ponoka Civic Building May 24. Seated behind him is MLA Ron Orr. File photo

Miss Ponoka Stampede Naomi Akkermans takes in the view from one of the Wild West Suites, including the rough stock bucking chutes. File photo

Zeke Thurston of Big Valley gets a Timely Delivery on this ride into the Canada Day showdown round with a score of 88.25. He followed that up with an 87 on Ancient Delivery to win his second Ponoka Stampede buckle. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Carolynn Knapp won first place in the 1D open short go at the Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre from Aug. 21 to 25.. Photo by Emily Jaycox

Mason Buffalo, the man who began the Walking in Spirit Suicide Awareness Walk, leads what will be the final one on the Samson Cree Nation on Aug. 28. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Sgt. Chris Smiley was officially promoted to Staff Sargeant in October, 2019.

Funds raised at the 2019 Festival of Trees will go towards a centralized cardiac monitoring system for the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre. File photo

A fire at Family Meats Ltd. Dec. 1 completely destroyed the slaughter plant and its contents. File photo

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