It is the most exciting time of the year in Ponoka for many people. The 72nd annual Ponoka Stampede is finally here. It seems like forever since the stampede wrapped up last year and I have been counting the days until the 2008 edition.
The Ponoka Stampede puts Ponoka on the map. Many people might disagree but this is the biggest event that Ponoka will host this year. With the weeks leading up to the stampede many people I know have adamantly stated that they will not go anywhere near the stampede grounds, they will stay away from the area and avoid downtown all together. This perplexes me so much, how can the Ponoka Stampede continue to be successful if the whole town does not get behind and support it?
This year at the Ponoka Stampede there will be more than 1,000 volunteers helping out. The stampede in 2007 won the largest committee of the year from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and the World Professional Chuckwagon Association of the year. Without these active volunteers Ponoka would not continue to be recognized through these national organizations. The Ponoka Stampede Association board of directors is comprised of hard working volunteers that take 1,000’s of hours each year to make the stampede possible for more than 70 years. Volunteers are the essence of our community. They are the lifeline of our community and our town and help to make Ponoka such a special place that it is.
As the preparations for stampede have continued for the past few weeks there have been many changes in our town. The streets are cleaner and the lines everywhere seem to be brighter. Storefronts, windows and businesses have been transformed to get into the stampede spirit. Along with the many, many volunteers that make the stampede succeed each person in town has to get behind the stampede. This means taking time everyday to make sure that our community shines for the more than 70,000 visitors that will be coming through our town. Our town and the stampede are something to be proud of and we need to show it off. As the many visitors arrive in town I encourage you to say hello to the new faces and when someone needs directions to one of our many great attractions help them out as best as you can. To the many visitors who are already here ask questions and explore our great town. Ponoka has many great facilities to offer such as a great pool, museum, an extensive trail system and beautiful parks. Let’s make this a town effort from the servers, to the town workers and everyone in between to have a great time.
This being only my second stampede here in Ponoka I am looking forward to continuing to learn all the tricks of the trade. Here are a few of the tricks and tips that I learned this year and I hope they will help make your stampede experience the best ever. If you get an autograph on a five-dollar bill from one of the many country stars that are set to perform make sure that you don’t spend it at the canteen. This year I already have my Shane Yellowbird autograph from a visit this week. Even if you don’t have styling pink cowboy boots, high heels or sandals are not the best attire for the dirt and mud. With the many pancake breakfasts over the stampede week make sure that you are hungry and bring lots of napkins for a sticky meal. CrAsh Cooper will entertain and surprise you so always be on your feet. Keep your ears tuned to the announcers for the wild action because you will always learn something new from the excellent announcers who will be here. If it is wet and you are close to a barrel be prepared to get muddy. Remember to get your Cattle Raffle tickets where you can get a chance to win 50 bred heifers (which I learned means the cows are going to be mothers so it’s double your livestock). If you are meeting cowboys who have the same last name and are both the top in their game make sure you know which one is a tie down roper and which one is a steer wrestler or what event they are in. If anyone offers you prairie oysters I would suggest you pass and ask for something else. Enjoy the action because this is rodeo at its best and it won’t get any better than this. To all the cowboys good-luck, stay safe, to our troops we salute you and let’s giddy up!