The 2023 Ponoka Stampede is June 26 to July 2, and according to the Ponoka Stampede president Jason Cline, the grounds continue getting bigger and better.
While the organizers of the festivities do try to hold the entertainment outdoors, the construction of the Showdown Dance Hall will allow Ponoka Stampede organizers to move up to 2,500 spectators inside in inclement weather.
“It also gives us the capacity to hold multiple events at once,” said Cline.
The dance hall is just the latest in additions to the Stampede Grounds, following the recently completed Wild West Suites.
As for the week-long event itself, little is changing from last year; the popular Flying Cross Jockey Club based out of Lacombe will be holding several performances, the ladies’ ranch bronc riding will be making an appearance for a second time, and Wild West Professional Bull Riding will take place.
According to Cline, the chuckwagons will be hosting a special celebration during the week as they celebrate a century of racing in the province.
Cline says that most of the changes spectators will notice at the grounds will be cosmetic, with a brand-new chute system installed and a paved area behind it allowing for greater animal and cowboy safety.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Cline.
“Ticket sales are on par with where they were last year. We expect to be where we were last year, if not bigger. “
In the first event coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cline said 2022 had over 100,000 spectators through the gates; pre-COVID, he says they were around 85,000.
The goal is to keep building on the year before.
“It’s about bringing the community back together,” said Cline.
“Without the community and surrounding areas, we’d never get (the Stampede) done.”
Cline notes that a large number of community non-profit groups count on the Ponoka Stampede for their fundraising every year, and part of the goal is “carrying on with that.”
Cline did say that coming out of the pandemic, there was concern about whether Canadian Rodeo would be able to draw the American competitors — of which there was a sizeable contingent pre-pandemic — back north of the border. Fortunately, those concerns have been unnecessary.
“Canadian Rodeo has come back stronger than ever.”
Away from the infield, the Ponoka Stampede has a solid lineup of entertainment taking place on the outdoor stage; acts like Corb Lund, the Washboard Union, Meghan Patrick and Garrett Gregory will all be taking to the outdoor stage at various times during the week.
The Ponoka Stampede runs from June 26 to July 2. Tickets are available through the onsite ticket office or through Ticketmaster.