Saddle up — the 77th iteration of the Ponoka Stampede is just around the corner.
Canada’s largest seven-day pro rodeo officially gets underway on Tuesday and will run until July 1. This year, though, the event will have a big lead-in on Monday with the biggest professional bull riders event in Canada.
The Jace Harty Memorial event has run for 10 years on its own, but this year it will serve as a sort of kickoff for the Stampede. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday.
“We’ve got $40,000 in prize money up. We’ve got five world champions coming from the States. We’ve got bull riders coming from Brazil,” explained Stampede president Joe Dodds.
The pro rodeo kicks off on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m., with attendees of the first session entered into a draw for a Dodge truck. Later that night, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band of Fishin’ in the Dark fame will play a show and there will be fireworks.
From Wednesday onward, the rodeo will get underway at 1 p.m. and chuckwagon races will kick off at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday night there will be a talent show; Thursday features a concert by Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise. On Friday and Saturday nights, the arena will host a beer garden and dance.
The festivities wrap up on Canada Day, with a final rodeo showdown for $10,000 and 36 chuckwagoners racing in the $50,000 Dash for Cash starting at 6:30 p.m.
There will also be a midway, art shows and auctions, pancake breakfasts, casinos, and farmers’ markets during the week. The annual parade runs on June 28, starting at 10 a.m.
Last year’s event drew around 73,000 spectators, and Dodds said even more are expected in 2013. Each rodeo event features $45,000 in prize money with $300,000 available for the chuckwagon races, putting the event inside the top 10 paying rodeos in the world.
Tickets (ranging from $20 to $40 for individual events) are available through the ticket office at 403-783-0100. A full schedule of events can be found at www.ponokastampede.com.