22 December 2015
By Dianne Finstad
PONOKA, Alberta — From barnwalkers to folks wanting an early breakfast, the community of Ponoka is embracing the Calnash Ag Event Centre in new ways all the time. The agri-recreational facility just off Highway 2A has become a hub for the neighborhood. The Centre has wrapped up its busiest year to date, with the upcoming fourth season looking even more promising.
“The Calnash Ag Event Centre has been Ponoka’s best kept secret,” said Terry Jones, President of the Ponoka Ag Centre Society, which is responsible for the Centre. “It’s unique because of the community partnership that created it, and it’s the only facility like it in Canada.”
Jones credits managers Joyce Vold and Dennis Pugh as another reason for the Calnash Centre’s strong bookings.
“Their customer service keeps people coming back. And Dennis has become a real ‘ground’ expert, accommodating the needs of the different horse groups using the arena.”
The couple’s long standing in the Ponoka area, plus their passion for the facility, have enhanced the building’s reputation.
But the Ponoka County Heritage Barn next to the Centre, with 280 stalls, is another major drawing card.
“With the ventilation system and the setup we have, I’ve had horse competitors who’ve been to places all over North America tell me there’s no place like it,” added Jones.
Along with brand new activities, like this fall’s FCA rodeo, and the Black Elk Cutting, which is the biggest cutting horse event in Canada, the Centre has proven its versatility. That was evident when it was all ‘dressed up’ for the very successful 2nd annual Ponoka Festival of Trees hospital fundraiser in November.
As well, community members have found the stalling area a great place to get some exercise in a heated, indoor environment. Close to 100 ‘barnwalkers’ have made visiting the Centre a regular part of their routine. That ranges from mothers jogging with strollers to several 90-years-young individuals keeping active. The Calnash concession, which is open weekdays plus weekends during events from 7:00 am-2:00 pm, has also become a popular breakfast gathering spot for locals, while 4-H clubs also make great use of the facilities.
“2016 is going to be a great year for activities,” said Joyce Vold. “We’ve got everything from full contact Jousting (coming in February for the first time) to Dog Agility Nationals in August, to the popular Mounted Shooting events.”
Naturally, the town famous for its July first Stampede, has a close connection with the horse world. The Centre’s main business is hosting a wide range of equine events of all kinds of disciplines and horse types. Local riders also utilize the full size barrel pattern and heated facilities to keep their horses in shape during open riding times.
“People come from all over to ride here,” noted Dennis Pugh. “Pro team roper Levi Simpson was in here the other day getting his horse in shape to prepare for the winter rodeo season down south. But along with all our horse events, we also do quite a few cattle sales.”
Kicking off the 2016 calendar will be the December 31st New Year’s Eve Bulls, Broncs and Bling event, featuring a Bull Riders Canada sanctioned bull riding, along with saddle bronc riding; to be followed by a cabaret to ring in the New Year, with Jamie Woodfin providing live entertainment. Tickets are available at the Centre or at Jones Boys.
Available booking dates for the Calnash Ag Events Centre for 2016 are disappearing quickly. To see the calendar and check for open riding days, log on to www.paecs.com or call 403-755-8490.