History of the Stampede

More than just a rodeo, it's an 88 year old tradition.

The exciting roots of rodeo and all the community hoopla that goes with it likely goes back to the turn of the century.

During the breaks of those rugged cattle drives across the prairies, the ranch hands would let loose and test their skills against the toughest steers or drop a little ager to see who could tame the wildest broncos.

The Ponoka Sports Association was formed around 1920 with their first event being a Stampede to raise funds for the Community Restroom. 1936 saw the advent of a 2-day Stampede, Carnival and Sports Event celebrating on the July 1st holiday, this was the inception of the Ponoka Stampede.

The first Ponoka Stampede was led by a tough, rugged cowboy named, George MacKeddie.The thrills and chills of the sport of rodeo attracted fans from near and far in 1936. It was a wild and wonderful western affair. For the price of 25 cents, rodeo fans could enjoy saddle bucking, bareback riding, wild cow milking, Indian races, pony races, roman races and chariot racing. Prize money ranged from $.50 cents to $6.00 in each of the exciting events. The week-long carnival at the curling rink held dances, children's races, ladies softball and more. In 1941, Chuckwagon racing was introduced to the Ponoka Stampede with the help of the Dorchester family.

The Ponoka Stampede since 1936 is a continuing statement of our Western Heritage.

We have grown from 3,000 rodeo fans to one of the Top 10 rodeos in the world featuring Chuckwagon races, beer gardens, dances, concerts, parades, midway and of course, all of the traditional rodeo events. The best cowboys and cowgirls in North America travel to the Ponoka Stampede to compete on the finest rodeo stock for over $885,000 in prize money.

The Ponoka Stampede is more than just a rodeo, it's an 88 year old tradition that continues to endure, becoming a bigger and better show each year. The staging of the Stampede is a total community effort, involving countless hours of volunteer time. Ponoka residents are justifiably proud of the high quality, action packed show. There are fourteen volunteer directors on the Ponoka Stampede Association Board. Over 800 volunteers donate more than 3,000 hours during the week-long celebration. Thirty local community organizations assist with the event and raise tens of thousands of dollars for their use.

The Ponoka Stampede is the largest Canadian Professional Cowboy Association Approved Rodeo. The mission of our organization is to preserve our western heritage and values by providing and facilitating recreation and education for our Alberta youth.

Dr. Gary Harbin

He put the town of Ponoka on the map.

One of the Best Visionaries

Dr. Gary Harbin was one of the best visionaries that has ever served on our Board. Not only did Gary put the Ponoka Stampede on the map, he put the Town of Ponoka on the map with his renowned veterinary clinic that he ran with endless passion for over 40 years.

Dr. Gary Harbin served with all his heart on our Ponoka Stampede Association Board since 1974. He was involved in pinnacle innovations at the Ponoka Stampede that has taken our event to the next level. Gary served on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Board from 1985-1991. Gary was the Founder and President of the Ponoka Stampede Youth Foundation. A foundation created to support the rodeo contestants of tomorrow, academically in the pursuit of further education by providing scholarships. On February 22, 2019 the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame announced the induction of Dr. Gary Harbin. This had been a longtime coming if you ask anyone who has had the opportunity to serve on our Board with him.

“Gary and I have been very close friends for over 50 years, I brought him on the Board 45 years ago. He gave the Ponoka Stampede a very special gift of his time and strong commitment. He made this place what it is today. Canada’s largest and best Pro Rodeo. Gary was honest, hard working and dedicated. He was a tremendous person and a hell of a friend.” - Frank Mickey

“I can still hear him say. No matter what else happens the Rodeo is the nucleus of the Ponoka Stampede, without the rodeo nothing else happens, and it has to be fair to the Cowboy.” -Bruce Harbin

“Dr. Gary Harbin was an outstanding and well respected veterinarian for the Town and County of Ponoka. He was also a major driving force on many major projects for the Ponoka Stampede. One of Gary’s favorite sayings was, don’t tell me what you can do, show me.” - Joe Dodds

“Doc Harbin was a special friend to me and many others. He lived for the Ponoka Stampede brand and was a mentor to all of us on the Board. It was an honor to have known him and ride beside him for so many wonderful years.” - Blair Vold

“As a former Rodeo contestant, Gary showed me there is a big difference between entering and producing a Rodeo. One of his quotes was, if you’re not moving forward you’re moving back. He was one of those rare men who when he spoke you paid attention. It was an honour to sit next to him at the Board table for over 25 years.” - Blake Butterfield

Doc had many dreams for the Stampede over his 45 years of service. Most to which were achieved with his leadership, determination and dedication. His efforts had a big hand in winning the PRCA Remuda Award in 2013. Ponoka Stampede is the only Canadian Rodeo to receive this award for providing the best, most consistent pen of bucking horses, creating the best opportunities for contestants to score well.

George MacKeddie

Over the years he never lost his love for rodeo.

First Manager of the Ponoka Stampede

At the age of 16 this spunky lad joined the North West Mounted Police and took his training in England where he vowed to see active service in the First World War as soon as he reached 18. This however was not to be, as the Armistice was signed just one month to the day before his birthday.

Upon his return to Alberta, MacKeddie followed the rodeos where he entered the Roman, chariot and chuckwagon races. In 1922, with his wrists broken from the previous day, the rugged cowboy won the Alberta Bronc Busting Championship.

He became very well known along the rodeo circuit and with his friend Buster Doran, rode saddle broncs and raced horses for a chance to win a trophy, a ribbon and a few dollars. On one occasion MacKeddie actually rode his famous thoroughbred horse, Dan, more than 100 miles to reach a big rodeo, winning a side bet and also the events he had entered.

It is interesting to note that in those early days before the advent of trucks and trailers, these hardy cowboys would have to ride their horses from one rodeo to another to compete. It took a lot of planning during the season to decide which rodeos they would enter, as there was likely also work commitments to honour to make a meager living.

George MacKeddie's life would change completely in 1923 while taking a carload of horses to Ontario with Ray Bagley of Lacombe. After roping a skittish colt, the trained cowpony that George was riding braced its feet, the colt bolted and MacKeddie's wrist was caught in a coil of rope and his hand was so severely damaged that it had to be amputated. His hand gone, George's spirit remained undaunted and he continued to complete in the horse races for several more years. In 1926 he married Alpha Lee, whose father Jack had been an ardent director for the initial early years of the Ferrybank Stampede.

After moving to Ponoka with his wife and a few good horses, MacKeddie drove a truck during the construction of the Alaska Highway and then later hauled freight with two trucks along the same highway. Over the years he never lost his love for rodeo, promoting many local events and in 1936 became the first manager of the Ponoka Stampede.

MacKeddie died Nov 10, 1945 but he will always be remembered for his happy-go-lucky spirit and true grit, as well as for his great talents on the track, in the rodeo infield and around horses.

Harry Vold

He has always considered his horses and bulls among the best athletes.

Legendary stock contractor, auctioneer and bronc rider.

Harry Vold was born in 1924 and was raised on the family ranch of parents Nansen and Kristen Vold in the Asker district, 15 miles east of Ponoka. The Vold's were one of the first pioneer families to settle in the Asker district in the late 1800's.

Harry Vold and his brothers, Clifford, Norman and Ralph attended school as well as worked on their father's vast 3,000-acre spread. While attending to 200-head of cattle and 100 horses in those youthful years, they would quickly develop a keen eye for good stock. Nansen Vold was one of the districts first official auctioneers and as a young lad Harry yearned to follow in his fathers footsteps, once skipping a day at school and riding his horse over to the Hawkeye Ranch to watch the auction from the loft of the barn. He became a self taught auctioneer, chanting with his father at countless sales, sold his first horse for $50 and then went on to hone his skills and make lots of friends at sales throughout Western Canada and the United States for many years.

Along the way, Harry also dreamed of creating a local rodeo, and with the help of his brothers fashioned a 120-foot by 250-foot arena out of poles in their own backyard. All of the boys were kind of daredevils and love to ride the wildest stock and together they would host district stampedes and picnics where many a wannabe cowboys would be encouraged to develop their skills to the cheers of the thrilled districts crowds. Times were tough and money was scarce in those days, vividly illustrated by the fact that Nansen lost one of his ranches to the Great Depression, but everyone always worked together and made the best of what they had.

Always seen as the big and friendly man with a great love for rodeo and extreme action in his veins, Harry joined the Claggett traveling Wild West Show in 1947, did a little bareback and saddle bronc riding on the side and continued to sell cattle at the Edmonton and Calgary Stock Yards. The keen Vold family tradition of ranching, auctioneering as well as raising, buying and selling all breeds of fine horses and cattle continued to flourish, including putting together packages of stock for rodeo stock contractors and each deal being sealed by a gentlemen's handshake.

1952, Harry agreed to ship 20-head of horses into Montana for Leo J Cremer, but they were turned around at the border due to hoof and mouth disease in Mexico and the whole load ended up back in Ponoka. He then agreed to let the Ponoka Stampede Association use them at no cost at their July long weekend event, during which others were impressed by the quality and performance and by 1954 the Harry Vold Rodeo Company was working rodeo events throughout Western Canada and the United States.

In 1957 Harry and his brother Ralph would also go into partnership with Bill and Shorty Jones to purchase the Ponoka Auction Market. As the sons of Nansen and Kristen Vold honed their skills and pursued their dreams in many directions, they also married and raised their families in the Ponoka community and districts and along the way have been blessed with 15 energetic children and 33 grandchildren. It wasn't long before Harry and his wife Karen, a former trick-rider were welcoming their children into the fold, and through all these busy years on the road, Karen has always been his biggest inspiration and support. Harry would faithfully serve as the arena director of the Ponoka Stampede for many years and in 1959 helped to organize the first of many Little Britches Rodeos in Canada.

In the family tradition their youngest son, Wayne, started his rodeo career early, working with the rodeo stock and as a highly regarded pick-up man and entertainer, later excelling as a Canadian champion bronc rider and is now in charge of the long-standing Vold Rodeo Company based in Alberta. Youngest son, Doug won his first Little Britches Saddle Bronc Championship in High River, busted onto the pro circuit and earned nine appearances at the Canadian Finals Rodeo and now is involved in buying, trading and selling top-notch horses. Doug is the co-holder of the record 95 point ride in Saddle Bronc riding. Other members of the family, who all became involved in the sport of rodeo through the enthusiasm and support of their parents, are daughters Dona, Kristen, Darce and Nancy who died in 2008.

In 1965 after many successful and exciting years of rodeo stock contracting and promotion in Canada, Harry and his family ventured into the United States to test the same lucrative market. Now 46 years later after a lot of hard work and many sharp turns along the dusty road, three of his children, Doug, Dona and Darce still operate Triple V Rodeo Company and bring their world-class stock to more than 20 top American rodeos each season. They have the distinction of working all 51 performances of the fabulous National Finals Rodeo. While Harry and Karen's youngest daughter, Kristen has assumed the day-to-day operation of the Harry Vold Rodeo Company; they still continue to proudly raise first-class rodeo stock at their 33,000-acre ranch in Pueblo, Colorado.

Harry Vold has always considered his horses and bulls, among the best athletes in the rugged business and his trophy room is full of the many awards and honours that he and his legendary bulls and broncs have received over the past 60 glorious years. Along the way he has gained the long-standing respect and friendship of rodeo contestants, officials and fans as well as the generations of infield acts that he has promoted and encouraged to present their unique and colorful skills in front of the packed grandstands.

Cliff Vold

The last surviving charter member of the group that founded the Ponoka Stampede.

Cliff Vold

Cliff Vold was a ranching and rodeo legend that past away at the age of 91 on July 30th, 2006. Vold was a cowboy, horseman, stock contractor, trader, collector, curator, honorary Montana Band Chief, brand inspector, musician, rodeo judge (even judged a Drumheller Prison Rodeo), chute boss, pony chuckwagon driver, storyteller, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.

He was the last surviving charter member of the group that founded the Ponoka Stampede. He won the Ponoka Stampede saddle bronc riding championship in 1936 and a purse worth $6. Vold competed, judged and was the chute boss at the Calgary Stampede. He also drove exhibition pony chuckwagons. He played the banjo, violin, saxophone, and drums and for 30 years played in an orchestra with his brother Norman and cousin Gordon. It was at one of those country-dances that he met and married his wife, Marion Watson, who predeceased him. Their three daughters, Janet, Sharon and Brenda and granddaughter, Laine are all involved in rodeos as secretaries and timers. Both of his grandsons, Shelbey Louis and LaRue Olsen compete in tie-down roping and steer wrestling.

Cliff was a brand inspector in central Alberta for 20 years at the Edmonton Stockyards and in the 1960's and 1970's showed appaloosa horses. A lifetime member of the Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada, Vold was also an inspector for registering horses with the club. Vold was a trader and a collector and some items from his saddle collection are still on display at the Ponoka Stampede Cowboy Museum.

Ralph Vold

Ralph served in all areas of the organization for four decades.

A life member and Senator of the Ponoka Stampede Association

Ralph Vold was born on December 3, 1930 and pursued an early career in sports, playing junior hockey in the Western League with Crowsnest Pass, later graduating to the Boston Olympics for a one-year stint with his farm team of the NHL Bruins. In 1952, this young man pursued another dream, becoming a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball organization, and pitched throughout the United States until 1958, when brother Harry persuaded him to come home and join him in the auction business.

While Ralph and his wife Delores, looked forward to raising their family, along the way he would also become a rancher, steer rider, the owner of a herd of Brahma bulls and a tireless promoter of the fast growing livestock industry and the rugged sport of rodeo. Ralph owned many great bulls such as Hagar and Rambo. He also found a little time to play with the great Ponoka Stampeders hockey teams; then later would develop the world-class Wolf Creek Golf Resort near Morningside. As a life member and Senator of the Ponoka Stampede Association, Ralph served in all areas of the organization for four decades and has been an ongoing international promoter of the rodeo and the Ponoka community.

Ralph's son, Blair has been on the Ponoka Stampede Association Board since 1988 and has served as President twice. Ralph vividly recalls many milestones that have added to the success of the Ponoka Stampede over the years, including the presence of the Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in the Parade, the opening of the front gates for free parking, only one admission price and the ongoing addition of many venues on the grounds to make the show even better. Ralph and Delores enjoy spending quality time with their family, daughters Laurie, Vicki and Cathy and sons Ryan and Blair as well as spoiling 14 grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

Idris "Shorty" Jones

A stalwart and crafty defensemen with the talented senior A Ponoka Stampeders

Idris "Shorty" Jones was born in 1926 into the family of Dave and Jennie Jones, who were raised in a stately old home that is now the Walrus and the Carpenter on 48th Avenue.

After completing school and helping his father in the family electrical shop, Shorty and his brothers Bill and Stan, purchased their own trucking company in 1946, hauling freight throughout the area. After selling the business to Tom and Ron Crawford in 1950, the Jones Boys established an insurance and real estate business a year later, then in 1957, Bill and Shorty joined forces with Ralph and Harry Vold to purchase what is now the Vold Jones Vold Auction Market.

Shorty Jones was also a stalwart and crafty defensemen with the talented senior A Ponoka Stampeders for 15 years, helping them to win many CHHL league titles, as well as a Western Canadian Intermediate A Championship in the 1955-56 season. He joined the Ponoka stampede Association in 1954, serving in all executive capacities, and later was honored with a lifetime membership. Shorty was quick to express that among the many milestones he recalls during his long tenure with the Ponoka Stampede Association he will never forget when Hector Labrie served as President in 1955, spearheading a project to fence the entire Stampede Grounds and offer free admission through the gates. The addition of the campground in 1974 was also a great plus for rodeo fans and visitors.

Shorty and his wife Jean were kept busy raising their active family of daughters, Debbie Lynn, Margo Ann and Tammy Dean and sons, Danny and Terry. Danny and Terry are both past Presidents of the Ponoka Stampede and have dedicated many years to the Association. Shorty and Jean have been blessed with ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Frank Mickey

Received 'Man of the Year' honors with the Ponoka Stampede Association

Frank Mickey was born in 1927 and has spent most of his active life in the community of Ponoka, where he and his wife Margaret raised their two daughters, Janie and Wendy and have been blessed with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Frank Mickey was born in 1927 and has spent most of his active life in the community of Ponoka, where he and his wife Margaret raised their two daughters, Janie and Wendy and have been blessed with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Frank, who worked with the Town of Ponoka Public Works Department from 1956-1988, 17 years as a foreman, joined the Ponoka Stampede Association in 1959. His many decades of dedication have included serving as president from 1966 to 1971 and from 1984-1985 as well as a director and grounds chairman. He is currently the grounds manager. Frank who is a lifetime member of the Ponoka Stampede Association and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association has also served as the President of the Stampede managers for 12 years, was on the CPRA board of directors for 20 years, the Dodge Rodeo rep from 1994-2000, the Central Alberta Rodeo Circuit president for eight years and he was on the CRPA board from 1999-2003.

He received 'Man of the Year' honors with the Ponoka Stampede Association and the CPRA in 1984 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the builders category in 2005. In his younger years Frank was an avid hockey fan and would faithfully serve from 1952-1960 as the trainer for the Ponoka Stampeders Senior Hockey Club. He has proudly overseen many changes and improvements to the Stampede Grounds and rodeo events over the years, including the amazing transformation from wood to steel of the grandstands, the chutes, the corrals, and buildings. Factors for ongoing successes have included the addition of the RV Park, Longscore Saloon, Tommy Dorchester Paddock, the Stagecoach Saloon as well as the rebuilding of the racetrack and the access tunnel.

Through all his dedication and efforts, Frank is quick to salute the support and enthusiasm of the volunteers, the community, the generations of PSA members and from the many thousands of rodeo contestants and fans.

Tom Butterfield

A rodeo legend, independent politician and doting grandfather

Tom Butterfield, a legendary Ponoka cowboy who stands for toughness, honesty, integrity and a sense of fair play.

Tom, the oldest of the Butterfield brothers was born on January 27th, 1928. Tom Butterfield and the Butterfield family were raised on a mixed farm west of Ponoka, Alberta, and as teenagers, had ample opportunity to ride a few old cows and yearlings, thereby acquiring the skills and desire to compete.

At the age of 16, Tom decided to enter boys steer riding at the Asker rodeo in 1944. He drew a good animal and won third. He was hooked on the sport and decided to compete in the bareback riding and cow riding at many of the local rodeos. In 1956, Tom joined the Cowboys Protective Association and turned his interests to steer wrestling and decorating, traveling with his brothers Brian and Bud. His determination, skill and love for rodeo made him one of the top steer wrestlers in Canada during the late 1950's and 60's.

Tom was the steer-wrestling Director for the Cowboys Protective Association in 1960 and 1961 and was elected President for the next four years 1962-1965. During 1978-79, the CRCA experienced financial difficulties; Tom Butterfield along with Colin Forbes of Edmonton Northlands restructured the Board of Directors. The new structure would consist of two Elected Cowboys, two Elected Rodeo Committee Members and two Elected Stock Contractors and a President at large, additionally the duo introduced the 'approval fee' where rodeos would pay a percentage of their rodeo prize money to the CRCA. Tom Butterfield was again elected to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association Board in 1981 and 1982. He was inducted as a builder into the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1996. From 1968 to 2000 Tom Butterfield was a Director on the Board of the Ponoka Stampede Association, serving as the President in 1978 and 1979. Tom Butterfield was a Ponoka County Councilor and a candidate for the Western Canada Concept in the 1982 Provincial election.

Thomas Warren Butterfield passed away on September 16th, 2009 at the age of 81. He was a rodeo legend, independent politician and doting grandfather. Tom wore many hats throughout his lifetime and will be remembered for being larger than life.