The votes are in: Mackenzie Skeels has been chosen as Miss Ponoka Stampede 2022.
Skeels was born in Ponoka and attended the Ponoka Stampede when she was only a few days old, as her dad was a volunteer on the board.
She grew up on a farm near Rimbey and her family owns around 460 purebred Simmentals and some registered Charolais.
Skeels has a diploma in media studies and professional communication. Her goals as Miss Ponoka Stampede will be to bridge the gap between rural and urban, bring back western heritage and educate people on where their food comes from.
Skeels said she wanted to be Miss Ponoka Stampede because when you come through the tunnel at the Stampede it “feels like Disneyland.”
Six rodeo queen hopefuls showed off their skills on selection day, April 21, at the Calnash Ag Event Centre, vying for the enviable title of Miss Ponoka Stampede 2022.
The candidates squared off in several categories, including horsemanship and public speaking in a Facebook live video, followed by a meet-and-greet lunch.
This year’s contestants were Martina Hotlkamp, Codi Wilson, Harleigh Zack, Emily Roessler, Ashley Gillespie and Skeels.
An educated group of young ladies, they had a wide range of post secondary qualifications among them. What they all had in common was a passion for agriculture, rural living and being ambassadors of rodeo.
Miss Ponoka Stampede 2019, Naomi Akkermans, has held the title for a record amount of time, carrying on her duties as queen after COVID-19 prevented the Stampede from going ahead for the last two years.
“I have been joking with everyone that when I go to rodeos now, I won’t know what to do,” said Akkermans of transitioning to being a spectator once again.
“I’m still going to stay super-involved, especially with the Ponoka Stampede. I’ll be running the wild horses and will be part of the action still,” she said.
“I’m not gone just yet.”
Skeels will be officially crowned at the Ponoka Stampede Association Tarp Auction on May 6, at the Stagecoach Saloon. During the event, 36 chuckwagon drivers will have their tarps auctioned off to the highest bidders.
The reception begins at 5 p.m. with the bidding action taking off at 6:30 p.m.