By the time you read this, the first few days of the largest single event that occurs in Ponoka every year — the Ponoka Stampede — will already be history. Our population will have tripled or quadrupled due to the people who come and camp at the Stampede campground, or at any available site that will allow them to pitch their tent, park their camper or set up their trailers. Restaurants will have lines out the door, hotels will have “No Vacancy” signs, the cash registers will be ringing at gas bars, drive-thrus and lots of other businesses in town.
Yes, there’s likely to be a street blocked off here or there to ensure drivers can safely manoeuvre the increased volume of traffic — and there may well be an increase in the number of people who choose to spend a night visiting the local constabulary because they overindulged. Unfortunately there will also be lots of Ponokaites grumbling about the event, about the members of the Ponoka Stampede Association board, and possibly even leaving town to escape the busyness that comes to Ponoka along with the event.
I’m not proud of it but I have to admit that when we moved here in 1991, and first listened to the local grumbling about the PSA, I bought into some of the negativity that is unfortunately attached to this world-class event. I’m here to say that I’ve since learned that the Ponoka Stampede is produced by one of the most dedicated volunteer, non-profit groups that I’ve ever been privileged to meet. Do I agree with everything they do? No, but I definitely admire their 77-year old vision to produce the best possible Stampede that they can — every year. I’m glad that for seven to 10 days our population increases from 6,773 to close to 20,000, affording Ponoka businesses the opportunity to showcase their product and customer service to a buying public that graces our streets only once a year. I’m glad that local groups such as our Air Cadets, 4-H groups, churches, Guides, Scouts, Lions, youth organizations — and others that I know I’m forgetting — have the opportunity to earn much needed funds for their respective programs by selling programs, 50/50 tickets, concession items in the stands, providing security, etc. In addition to those groups working at the grounds, the PSA donates to numerous other charitable and non-profit organizations throughout the year, without any fanfare. I’m glad that 10,000 to 12,000 people visit Ponoka daily who likely otherwise, would not visit our fair town.
As a business owner, I frequently hear “the Stampede does nothing for my business.” My question to you is: “What are you doing to bring the Stampede visitor to your door?” It’s not PSA board members’ responsibility to take their visitor by the hand and lead them to your business. Do you advertise in their Stampede program? Do you advertise in the Ponoka News Stampede supplement? Do you sponsor an event at the Stampede? Do you offer the Stampede visitor a good reason to come to your business? If you’re not doing any of these, why aren’t you? You have to get your name in front of the people who come to Ponoka; if they don’t visit you during Stampede, they at least have heard your name, and may come back — just to come to your business.
I know that not all of your readers will agree with me and that’s OK. I’m glad to live in a free country where we can agree to disagree. As for me, I’m saying thank you to the dedicated volunteers who make up the board of the Ponoka Stampede, plus their more than 700 volunteers, as they execute this exciting event that can only be found in my hometown — the Ponoka Stampede.