The Ponoka district has been well represented at their annual Stampede for many years. Dynasty names like the Volds, Pughs and Butterfields are just a few that have done well at the Stampede, and beyond. Many of the names can almost be garaunteed to be at this year’s Ponoka Stampede.
Past Ponoka Stampede Association president Bruce Harbin says that the Ponoka Stampede has been referred to as the ‘cowboy’s rodeo’ and the Ponoka district has a good nucleus of rodeo talent.
This large and dedicated population of riders is one of the reasons Ponoka has the Calnash Ag Event Centre. The modern facility which is home to the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame, gives locals a chance to compete and practice rodeo events during the winter. This opportunity to ride year-round just improves the quality of athletes from the Ponoka district.
He points out that not only is Ponoka well represented at their own Stampede, but at events like the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer, and other top rodeo events all over.
Harbin says one of the great things about those involved in rodeo, especially in the district, is there is a deep pool of talent, and nobody is afraid to share that talent with those around them. The older generation is constantly giving back to younger generations, and it keeps the skills thriving in the sport.
“Rodeo people have the greatest fraternity on earth,” said Harbin.
Harbin himself started at Bobtail Rodeo in calf roping. Over the years he moved up through the youth rodeo programs, and eventually competed in professional steer wrestling during the 90s. He happily commented that he had come up under the tutelage of Craig Butterfield and Wally Pugh. Harbin’s family is active in the Stampede in various positions. He does note his youngest seems interested in breakaway so he is aware he may find himself involved in the youth rodeo circuit again.
Harbin says those who grow up in rodeo spend years traveling from place to place for competitions and get to meet a variety of people. Years later they often meet these people again and find them involved with their families in the rodeo like everyone else.
He is reminded of a poem over the desk of Tom Butterfield that says ‘The world would be a much brighter star if more folks were as cowboys are.”
The community and willingness to help out and teach is something he enjoys immensely and says that Ponoka athletes are perfect examples of it.
Local athletes to watch for
A couple hometown Ponoka cowboys likely to compete in the tie-down roping are Keely Bonnett and Deven Gerwatoski.
In the steer wrestling there’s Ponoka boys Brock Butterfield, Ben Ramey, Craig Weisberger and Trygve Pugh.
In the ladies barrel racing, some names to look for include Shayna Weir, Casey Dacyk, Kim Gerwatoski and Jessie Vandenbroek.
Team roping could see Keely and Logan Bonnett, along with other local duo Brett Buss and Klay Whyte.
Jake Vold, a well-known name around the rodeo grounds and Ponoka, and Jacob Stemo from Bashaw, compete in bareback while Jordan Hansen and Zane Lambert, also from Ponoka, compete in the eight-second exhilarating event of bull riding.
Many other local names can also be heard on the loudspeaker, competing in the various events throughout the week.