Although the Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA) held on to the hope that they’d be able to hold the Stampede this year at a later date, they made the announcement on June 23 that the seven-day rodeo would be postponed until 2022.
A board meeting on Tuesday evening concluded the Stampede would be postponed until 2022, with most board members in agreement, according to PSA president Bruce Harbin.
Harbin says the best way to sum up the decision is that like Christmas is set for a specific date that the whole world knows and expects, the Ponoka Stampede has always been held over the July 1 weekend.
When an event has been held at the same time for 85 years, “the world knows that’s when it happens,” said Harbin.
“The timing is essential to fit into the lifestyle of central Alberta,” he said.
“I don’t think the event could have been what people came to know and love on different dates.”
The Ponoka Stampede has always been timed for a kind of sweet spot between the spring farm work of counting cows and putting crops in from April to June and harvest and silage time in August.
By the time the Ponoka Stampede rolls around, fans and cowboys alike are ready for a break, which “made it heaven,” says Harbin.
It you move the dates of the Ponoka Stampede by either two days or two months, you run into issues with people not being available.
“They’re on to the next part of summer.”
The original dates of the 2021 Ponoka Stampede were set for June 28 to July 4.
With the uncertainty of the dates for the three stages of the provincial reopening and other considerations related to COVID-19, the board made the decision at the beginning of June to postpone the original dates.
At that point, they were still holding out hope they’d be able to hold the Stampede at a later date this season.
Although they’d looked at different dates, the reality was that trying to hold it later on was a “logistical nightmare,” says Harbin.
Harbin says when they started trying to pick up the pieces of what was available to them to hold the Stampede at a later date, it became apparent that there were “gaping holes” it what they’d be able to provide to fans and contestants.
For example, there were two weekends in August where chuckwagons where available, however, it wasn’t certain how many drivers would be able to participate, and the dates overlapped with other rodeos.
Harbin says the PSA didn’t want to compete with them, and it would have made things difficult as far as stock as well.
Added to that, the federal border is still closed, so there would have been a cowboy shortage, he says.
If the Stampede had been held later in August, another issue that would have likely arisen is that by that time of year, a lot of cowboys are already back home and planning their financing for the next season, especially if they didn’t win a lot of money and don’t have a shot at the finals.
“So there’s less of a pool to draw from,” said Harbin.
“There’s no playbook for this pandemic, however, we’re confident it will be behind us and we can go forward, brand new in 2022.”
The dates for the 2022 Ponoka Stampede have been set for June 27 to July 3.
In the meantime, Harbin encourages fans to support the numerous smaller rodeos being held this summer that were able to go ahead with their original dates.
“It’s very important to take them in and support them, and have a little fun while doing it,” said Harbin, adding that it’s the first in getting back to “unrestricted life.”