It’s a tradition in Ponoka to show some appreciation for area athletes and others that have made it to the pinnacle of Canadian rodeo.
And that’s what the Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA) did on Oct. 23 in the annual sendoff ceremony for those heading off to the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer, hosted at the Calnash Ag Event Centre.
“We are very proud to see the representation we have going this year. There a lot of great individuals out there that have worked hard and we hope you have the greatest CFR that you can and bring those buckles home,” said PSA president Bruce Harbin.
“We also would like to acknowledge your families that have helped support you getting down the road and making the CFR possible.”
Councillors from Ponoka County, Bryce Liddle, and the Town of Ponoka, Kevin Ferguson, also paid tribute on behalf of their councils.
In all, 12 athletes along with one going as an official plus the Miss Ponoka Stampede representatives from 2018 and 2019 were commended for their accomplishments, which included each one receiving a special vest.
Ponoka is well represented with Zane Lambert making another appearance in the bull riding along with Jordan Hansen, who recently moved to the region. Then there are the five team ropers — former world champion Levi Simpson, the Bonnett brothers of Logan and Keely plus Klay Whyte and Brett Buss.
Justine Elliott, who is from Lacombe, enters the CFR as the top ranked barrel racer and is being joined by Bluffton’s Stacey Ruzicka who comes in ranked third.
In addition, Brenda Vold was presented with a vest for once again being selected as the official timer for the CFR. Vests were also given to 2018 Miss Ponoka Stampede Alicia Erickson, who will be competing for the Miss Rodeo Canada title in Red Deer, and to 2019 Miss Ponoka Stampede Naomi Akkermans.
Meanwhile, an additional presentation was made for a pair of local athletes competing in the Breakaway roping being held at the CFR.
Macy Auclair and Taylor Flewelling will be among the 40 women that will vye for $35,000 in prize money in the first-ever CFR championship in this event. The semifinals will go at noon on Oct. 31 at the Centrium in Red Deer, followed by the final on Nov. 1 starting at noon.
“I started in breakaway when I got to Grade 6. My dad was a big influence in getting into it,” said the 17-year-old Auclair, whose been riding horses for as long as she can remember.
“I like it a lot better than barrel racing because it’s not just a horse race where you have to have the fastest horse. Breakaway is about yourself and how hard you work at it and you just have to have a horse to get you there.”
Auclair, who started competing in rodeos at six-years-old, is elated that she gets to be part of the first one ever at the CFR.
“It’s really exciting that it is going be one of the major optional events and really awesome there is another event just for women,” she stated, adding the sport is growing exponentially.
“Me and Taylor Smith put on an event and we had 71 entries with girls from as far as Montana came.”