Ponoka means "elk" in Blackfoot. Oddly enough, our local first nation's tribes to the North are Cree in descent. The community originated in 1891 as a delivery point along the Calgary-Edmonton Trail. When the CPR arrived in 1895, the town site was known simply as "Siding 14" until an unknown railway employee wrote the name Ponoka on a sign to identify the community. Ponoka was incorporated as a town in 1904 and grew as settlers arrived from Eastern Canada and the American Midwest. The diversity of our citizens' nationality, backgrounds, and age, are instrumental in cultivating our local heritage.
Alberta Hospital, Ponoka
The early days saw not only agriculture in the area but also lumber rolling down the Battle River and the construction of the Alberta Hospital Ponoka; a fully self-sustaining psychiatric facility complete with gardens for supplying its own food. A great deal of its history can be seen at our Local Fort Ostell Museum's "History of Mental Health in Alberta display."
Now Canada's largest seven day pro rodeo, the world famous Ponoka Stampede, had humble beginnings back in the 1930's. Staged each year during the July 1st, Canada Day weekend, the Stampede still owns its reputation for being true to authentic rodeo roots. Seven full days of rodeo action attracts the best two and four-legged rodeo athletes in the world. World-class chuck wagon racing, midway attractions and other high profile entertainment now transform Ponoka into the chosen destination for thousands of rodeo and summer entertainment fans and enthusiasts.
Like the evolution of the Stampede, the community of Ponoka now boasts a vibrant, rural lifestyle with a nod to its roots. The once mighty Battle River has transformed into a river of quite tranquility, laced with beautiful trail systems. The Psychiatric Hospital has become the world-renowned Centennial Centre for Mental Health & Brain Injury and a new Agricultural Event Centre will continue to propel our agricultural progress.
Learn about Ponoka's 20th Century Landmarks in this booklet prepared by the Ponoka Main Street Project.