A testament to the Ponoka-area’s rodeo heritage, a fair-sized contingent of local cowboys, cowgirls and participants will be heading to the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Red Deer from Nov. 2 to 6.
In true Ponoka Stampede tradition, the association held their annual CFR send off on Oct. 26, at the Calnash Ag Event Centre, to wish all the participants well and present each of them with a Ponoka Stampede vest.
Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA) president Jason Cline said this past rodeo season was a real “bounce-back” year after COVID-19 and how good it was to see fans back in the stands, sponsors and competitors back for the 2022 Ponoka Stampede.
He added the CFR send off was not only to recognize the athletes competing at the CFR but to also celebrate the year all those involved in rodeo had, from competitors to stock contractors.
Ponoka has a rich rodeo history but it’s really the rodeo families and names that put Ponoka on the map, he said.
Ponoka County Coun. Mark Matejka and Ponoka Mayor Kevin Ferguson also gave greetings from their municipalities and gave congratulations to the participants.
“We are a cowboy town and you are our cowboys and cowgirls,” said Ferguson, adding he was proud of all those going to the CFR.
From the Ponoka area, the participants in the 2022 CFR will be:
- Brenda Vold, official timer;
- Keely Bonnett, team roper, heeler in fifth place;
- Logan Bonnett, competing in team roping. He’s a header and in fourth place and had a horse of the year;
- Kash Bonnett, team roper, header in ninth place;
- Shelby Spielman, ladies barrel racer, in second place, and with the ladies barrel racing horse with the most heart, Hot Donna;
- Justine Elliott, Barrels, in fourth place and last year’s reining champion;
- Taylor Flewelling, breakaway, in second place;
- Nash Loewen, in first place in junior steer riding;
- Jestin Jacklin, number six in the junior steer riding;
- Brett Buss, header, in fifth place and is the event rep for team roping;
- Stacey Ruzicka, ladies barrel racing, number eight, and going to her second CFR;
- Levi Simpson, team roper, header, in 10th place and a past world champion (not present);
- Jake Stemo, bareback, in fifth place, and
- Nansen Vold, stock contractor, with 27 bulls, 27 horses going to the CFR and the NFR, from both Vold and Outlaw, (not present, and represented by Jake Wilson).
Bareback rider Stemo can boast ties to both Ponoka and Bashaw, with family in both towns.
Currently in fifth place, he said he’s hoping to do well at his third CFR, as he’s likely in the top two or three competitors in Canada right now.
Although he’s feeling confident after a good season, he said “finals is anybody’s night.”
While competition is sure to be tough, he said he’s going to enjoy himself regardless, as he’ll be riding with guys he’s been competing with since he was about 12 years old.
Now 29, he said he’s getting old for a bareback rider, and realizing he’s got more seasons behind him than ahead of him is “starting to come to light.”
As bareback riding is arguably the most aggressive of the rodeo sports, injury is almost inevitable, he said, but you hope for the best and plan for the worst. So far he’s been lucky, with only some bumps and bruises at his last CFR.
The biggest thing is to stay consistent and ride well each night to place well in all six rounds, he said.
The three Bonnett brothers from Ponoka have been riding and roping since they were very young, growing up on the family’s ranch and feedlot just north of Ponoka.
“Everything we do is on a horse,” said Logan.
“We’ve got a really good chance, coming in fourth. The money they have in Red Deer, anybody’s got a good chance to win a Canadian title,” he said.
“We had a good agribition spring and the end of the year was really good as well. We’ve been roping lots and we’re ready for next week.”
While Logan and Keely form a team, the third brother Kash is a header for Logan Spady.
“It’s friendly competition. I mean, we’re all really competitive so anything we do is a competition, but it’s a good family event.”
Rimbey and Ponoka rodeo fans alike are waiting with bated breath to see if Miss Ponoka Stampede 2022 Mackenzie Skeels, from Rimbey, will be crowned Miss Rodeo Canada at this year’s CFR rode queen competition.
The three royal hopefuls are Skeels, Martina Holtkamp, also from Rimbey, and Harleigh Zack, from Kitscoty, Alta.
The competition will be held during the CFR and the winner will be crowned Nov. 4.
Mackenzie said the ladies will compete in five categories: horsemanship, public speaking, a personal interview, a written exam and modeling.
“Those components will kind of be throughout the days that we’re there,” said Skeels.
With the Miss Ponoka Stampede selection, there were three events judged on one day: horsemanship, a meet-and-greet luncheon and a personal interview.
“So it’s a little bit different than that. It’s a few more days and a few more things that we get to do.”
Being from Rimbey and holding the current Ponoka Stampede rodeo queen title, Skeels is effectively representing both communities. She was also the 2017 Rimbey rodeo queen.
“It’s super amazing. It’s so cool to not only represent Ponoka but also the community of Rimbey.”
While Skeels said you never really know until you get there, about her chances of winning Miss Rodeo Canada but she’s excited about every component of the competition.
“I know every single one of (them) is very capable and would do a wonderful job as Miss Rodeo Canada, whoever they chose.”
A few of the athletes recognized Dennis Pugh and Joyce Vold for their years managing the Ag Event Centre and congratulated the PSA for being awarded the 2022 CPRA Committee of the Year award in the large category.