Since 1936 the Ponoka Stampede has grown to become the largest seven-day Pro Rodeo in Canada and ranks among the top four money wise in North America. Today the Rodeo has been split into two parts. During the day from 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm the cowboys and cowgirls are front and center displaying their riding and roping skills and then in the evening the chuckwagons take over. Ponoka is a world class Rodeo and draws visitors from all over the world. It is not unusual to sit in the stands beside an Australian, an English family, or an American along with people from all over Canada.
Every rodeo has a queen to represent them and Ponoka is no exception. This year the Ponoka Stampede Queen is Kary Lucas who presides over the seven-day event.
Those taking in the wagon races start the evening watching the always-enjoyable Kid’s Wild Pony Race. The contest of determination between young riders and ponies not interested in being ridden is filled with spills and chills to see which will win out.
The next event up after the Wild Pony Races is the Pony Chuckwagon Races. For some this is the junior event to the chuckwagon event as the wagons are smaller and lighter and does not have outriders escorting the wagons. Once the wagons have cleared the barrels it is entirely up to the skill of the drivers to determine the winner, as there are no penalties due to late outriders.
Between the Pony and larger chuckwagon races the Stampede takes time to honour various individuals who have made a contribution to the sport. One of the honors is the presentation of the Stu Grant Memorial Belt Buckle Award. Grant was a long time employer of Dow Chemical and activity involved with promoting the Ponoka Stampede and the chuckwagon races. After his death Dow Chemical sponsored the awarding of a Memorial Belt Buckle to those who have contributed to the development of the sport of chuckwagon races. This year’s recipient was Sue Fraser and she was presented her buckle on Friday, June 27th. Sue is the third recipient to receive this honour.
After the presentation of the Stu Grant Memorial Belt Buckle Award it was time for the Chuckwagons. Chuckwagon races are more complicated than the ponies. First there are two outriders who have to stay within a prescribed distance of the chuckwagon at the end of the race. Failure to do so results in penalty seconds being added to the wagon. At the beginning of the race one of the outriders has the responsibility to place inside the chuckwagon a simulated stove. Without the stove the wagon is disqualified. All this makes for an exciting start as the wagons whip around the barrels to gain an advantage.
All of the top drivers make an effort to attend the Ponoka event and make every effort to qualify for the final race and the $50,000 that goes with winning the Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash.