Ponoka Stampede postponed again — this time due to poor timing with loosening of Alberta COVID-19 restrictions

The Ponoka Stampede will not be going ahead for a second year in a row, as the rodeo would start just a few days before provincial public health restrictions lift almost completely.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last week that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted July 1. Among other things, this would allow events like the Ponoka Stampede to go ahead.

But rodeo organizers announced Wednesday that the event, slated to start June 28, will be postponed until June 2022.

“It’s definitely devastating for all of our organizations and community groups. They make their whole year off of this, and our businesses live off of it.” said Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett.

The stampede in Ponoka, Alta., a town of about 7,500 people just over 95 kilometres south of Edmonton, has been a Canada Day weekend tradition since 1936. It’s a huge boost for the town’s tourism industry, attracting up to 60,000 visitors, said Bonnett.

But poor timing with loosening restrictions, as well as uncertainty about whether chuckwagon races would go ahead, led to the postponement, he said.

Earlier this month, Ponoka Stampede president Bruce Harbin hinted that the rodeo could go ahead in August, depending on Alberta’s COVID-19 situation and vaccine uptake in the province.

But organizers couldn’t mess with tradition.

“Christmas Day happens on Dec. 25. You don’t really move Christmas Day to Jan. 25 and expect it to be the same,” Harbin told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.

In the meantime, Bonnett says Ponoka is still hosting other summer events, such as the Ponoka Stampede’s Cattle Raffle, which offers a chance to win $75,000 or 50 pasture-bred heifers.

The mayor hopes the Alberta government will supply some aid for the tourism industry to help the businesses and organizations impacted by the rodeo’s postponement.

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