Despite being one of the last of its kind in Alberta, the Ponoka Fish and Game Association Rifleman’s Rodeo is seeing growth in the event.
The organization’s 49th annual edition of was held over the long weekend with various competitive shooting events and other activities running from Friday, Sept. 2 to Monday, Sept. 5.
Todd Nabozniak, chair of the committee responsible for the rodeo, explained that events like this have been on the decline, but Ponoka’s still seems to be heading in an upward direction.
“This, as far as we know, is the last one around,” Nobozniak said, who now hails from Calgary, though his father was among one of the many that attended the competition in its early years.
“And this year, the interest is better here than it has been in the past. It’s growing bit by bit with a lot of families coming. Also, there seems to be a lot more women and girls taking part. Shooting and hunting seem to becoming more popular among them, so that’s good too.”
The event this year has seen shooters come from as far away as Cold Lake and the High River areas, which makes all of the hard work in planning the competition worthwhile.
Nabozniak stated the planning began back in May and that they still use copies of the original animal targets that were made for the first event.
“The biggest issue we have now is finding staff for our pit crew, what with the liability and insurance issues out there now,” he said, adding that they mostly use family members to fill the void that used to be done by local youth groups and other organizations.
A couple of other traditions at the rodeo also remain – such as the gold/silver buckle that the winners receive, which still come from the same company in southern Alberta as it did 49 years ago, as well as the big barbecue evening with a pit-roasted pig being the special this year.
It was also nice for Nabozniak and the rest of the participants to see a pair of the rodeo’s founding members – Ron Cave and Ivan Nelson – stop in during the weekend to check out the action, both of whom were impressed with how the event is still operating and with the shooting facility located near Menaik Road north of Ponoka. Both Nelson and Cave stated it certainly looks great and a lot different than the original site for the club near Morningside.