Year in review: 2021 was a year of moving forward despite challenges

Youth centre anniversary. September
October
December
Shandro visit
chucks. September
pride flag.
airport tour
Grad parade. June
Condos.
Grad. June
Chantelle. November
Kenney protest. July
Justice for Jeff.
Nurses picket.
Maskwacis trail.
Penny carnival. August
Toboganning. February
sledding

For some, 2021 may have represented a year of continued struggles, and for others, it was a slow return to a semblance of normal. Throughout all the ups and downs, the Town of Ponoka, the community and its people continued to move forward with important initiatives and find creative ways to hold events to help bring us together this past year.

Here is a look at some of the top stories covered by Ponoka News in 2021.

January

– Local businesses reacted to the two-week extension of business closures.

– The Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak, which was lifted in January.

– The Ponoka Homelessness Committee became a society.

– The 100-year-old Bobtail Bridge was moved to a new home.

– The Ponoka Ag Event Centre was struggling with operating costs during shutdowns.

– Ponoka County advocated for clearer numbers from the province on local COVID-19 cases.

February

– The Ponoka Stampede’s long-time stage coach driver, Henry Fleck, was remembered in a tribute article.

– The tub room renovation at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre, a project spanning several years, was finally completed, improving care for Long Term Care patients.

– Montana First Nation launched its own children and family services agency.

– Ponoka RCMP detachment commander Staff. Sgt. Chris Smiley spoke to council about recidivism and the murder of a young Ponoka mother, Chantelle Firingstoney.

– Ponoka author Christine Orm received an award for a children’s book she wrote, “We Need More Toilet Paper.”

– A temporary COVID-19 testing site in Ponoka closed as local positive case numbers dropped.

– Bantam Broncs football team head coach Todd Lewis won an Award of Merit from Football Alberta.

March

– A larger discussion about justice and the court system was sparked as two court cases for Ponoka murder victims proceeded.

– A rally “Justice for Jeff, Justice for All” was held outside the Red Deer Provincial Court on March 3, as sentencing was to begin for the accused in in Jeffery Kraft, of Ponoka’s, death. The accused is still awaiting sentencing.

– Town council passed a new animal control bylaw that includes licensing for cats.

– Nearby residents opposed a proposed development of a four-storey condo building in the greenspace near the town’s cenotaph.

– The Ponoka Stampede Association signed a land transfer agreement with the Town of Ponoka.

– Ponoka Professional Pharmacy became the first place in town to offer COVID-19 vaccinations.

April

– Several fundraisers were started to support the Persicke family after an ATV fire.

– Wolf Creek Public Schools announced it would not be piloting the new draft curriculum in the fall.

– The Ponoka Stampede Association was still hopeful they could go ahead with the 2021 Ponoka Stampede, however, the event was eventually postponed to 2022.

– The Town of Ponoka launched a temporary seasonal patio program.

– The 30-year-old homicide of Billie Johnson of Samson Cree Nation was solved, and more charged were pending against the accused in her death.

May

– Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services was recognized for its compassionate care to Ponoka students in crisis.

– Ponoka County resident Cole Nelson was picked in the first round of the 2021 CFL draft on May 4.

– Several small grass fires broke out along the railway track through town on May 6, presumably sparked by a passing train.

– The Town of Ponoka called on the province to increase funding to small rural businesses.

– Several locations in Ponoka now offered COVID-19 vaccinations.

June

– The local high schools joined together for a Parade of Graduates for all the 2021 high school grads on June 3.

– The Four Nations of Maskwacis held a memorial ceremony for the 215 children found in Kamloops, B.C. The Ponoka community showed their support for the Every Child Matters movement, in different ways.

– Samson Cree Nation member and residential school survivor Flora Northwest shared her story.

– Lorne Fundytus was selected as the new CAO for the Rimoka Housing Foundation.

– Ponoka held a Pride flag ceremony on June 28.

– The town hosted a drive in movie on June 30.

– The town announced fireworks would go ahead on Canada Day, but other town activities were cancelled due to ongoing COVID-19 considerations.

July

– An air tour promoting the aviation industry made a stop at the Ponoka Airport on July 10.

– The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce held its first annual golf tournament.

– There were two fatalities involving railway crossings a day apart — one near Wetaskiwin on July 11 and the other near Ponoka on July 12.

– A Bluffton-area rancher won the Ponoka Stampede Cattle Raffle and opted to take home the cattle.

– The developers of the proposed seniors condo planned to go ahead with the project but had some setbacks and were looking at a redesign to possibly add a few more units.

– The Wolf Creek Gold Resort hosted the Alberta Open.

– Then Minister of Health Tyler Shandro stopped in Ponoka for a tour of the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.

– Alberta Premier Jason Kenney visited Ponoka on July 22, speaking at a Ponoka chamber event at the Ponoka Golf Club. A small group of demonstrators gathered to protest health care cuts.

– The second annual Ponoka Ringsteken (traditional Dutch ring riding) event was held on July 24.

August

– Ponoka nurses gathered for an information walk and picket line on Aug. 11, protesting proposed cuts to nurses’ wages.

– Candidates started to file nomination papers for the 2021 municipal election.

– A Ponoka family, the McCues, donated a scientifically significant specimen to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

– A federal snap election was called.

– Local Ponoka cowgirl Aimee Cripps had a clean sweep at the Alberta Barrel Racing Association finals held in Ponoka Aug. 23 to 29.

– A local family, the Pearmans, won a national award from Speed Skating Canada.

– The Ponoka Community Market held its annual Penny Carnival on Aug. 30.

September

– The Wild West Chuckwagon Championship was held at the Ponoka Stampede Grounds from Sept. 2 to 5.

– The Ponoka Youth Centre celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sept. 10.

– Conservative incumbent Blaine Calkins was re-elected as the MP for Red Deer – Lacombe on federal election day, Sept. 20.

– Ponoka business owners expressed their frustrations over recent break-ins in the downtown core.

– Ponoka Dr. Gregory Sawisky stated the fourth wave was here and having an impact on health care in Ponoka.

October

– Samson Cree Nation member Tina Northwest received an award for her work on the Maskwacis walking trail.

– Ponoka town council candidates faced off in an election forum held over Zoom on Oct. 5.

– Ponoka’s new mayor, Kevin Ferguson, gave an interview about creating a “collective vision” with his fellow council members for the future of Ponoka.

– Ponoka physician Dr. Cayla Gilbert spearheaded a display at the Ponoka Civic Centre for an Opioid Memorial Weekend, Oct. 15 to 17, which was recognized in Ponoka, Wetaskiwin and Edmonton.

– Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told Ponoka chamber members over a Zoom call that the fourth wave in Alberta was due to low vaccination rates across the province.

November

– A walking trail extension on 50 St. approaching Highway 53 proved to be a bone of contention with residents, who criticized the project for narrowing the roadway too much for drivers.

– Ponoka RCMP officers speak to council about downtown crime and how more RCMP members are needed, but that alone won’t solve the problem.

– Ponoka Secondary School expanded its Hall of Valour.

– The Ponoka Legion Branch No. 66 hosted a Remembrances Day ceremony that was live streamed.

– The Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury said farewell to their 25 full-time and five casual laundry workers who worked their last day at the facility on Nov. 15.

– Residents came out in droves for the Santa Claus Parade, held during Almost Midnight Madness on Nov. 19.

– The family of Chantelle Firingstoney gathered outside the Ponoka courthouse during what was supposed to be the preliminary hearing for the court case against the accused in her death, Ryan Jake Applegarth. The hearing was adjourned due to poor weather conditions.

– The sentencing for the accused in the death of Ponoka local Jeffery Kraft, Tyler Campbell, was put off until January, 2022.

December

– A Ponoka physician and three other Alberta doctors launched a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services because of the province’s vaccination mandate for health care workers.

– Ponoka articling student Tsitsi Chiwara was admitted to the Alberta Bar at a ceremony held at Ponoka Provincial Court on Dec. 3.

– Ponoka residents were concerned about a loud boom and aftershock that many heard and felt on Dec. 3, however, initial investigations turned up empty.

– Seasons Ponoka announced the opening of 20 additional Supportive Living Level 4 suites.