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Funny, fast and flying: Infield entertainment set for Ponoka Stampede

High-flying entertainment will be hitting the infield during Stampede Week

Hold onto your belt buckles: some high-flying entertainment – not just the wildly-talented cowboys and cowgirls competing this year — will be hitting the dirt of the infield. 

Crash Cooper (June 25-July 1)
Crash Cooper is always a smash hit with audiences during afternoon rodeo performances at the Ponoka Stampede. 

Hailing from Senlac, Sask., ‘Crash’ Cooper, is not only the Stampede’s rodeo clown but also one of the most popular rodeo entertainers in North America. 

He’s performed in all kinds of finals, including the Canadian Finals Rodeo several times, plus rodeos clear across the continent. 

Cooper’s also been picking up an armload of accolades along the way including winning Canada’s Entertainer of the Year multiple times. 

At this year’s Ponoka Stampede, Cooper will be performing from June 25 to July 1. His show promises to be packed with his quick jokes, infield dancing, and crowd-engaging energy. 

In addition to intermission performances, Cooper will also show off his dazzling skills and quick reflexes throughout the events including the bull riding. 

It’s no mystery as to why he’s quick on his feet given his history as a bullfighter before deciding to don the face paint and overalls for his time in the arena. 

Piper Yule (June 26-30)
Also appearing this year is Piper Yule, who is described as a 13-year-old spitfire known for her signature cow horses, cowgirl heart, and remarkable sense of true horsemanship. 

Piper is also known as the young gun of the rodeo industry. Said to be as she is tough, she hails from the hard grass country in Southern Alberta and is a fifth-generation cowgirl. 

When not Roman riding, practicing liberty horsemanship or trick riding, she spends her time team roping and competing in cutting and working cow horse events and helping out on her family ranch and in the community. 

Her talents have certainly not gone unrecognized. 

Awards run the gamut from a four-time Canada Pro Rodeo Dress Act of the Year, and three-time PRCA Top 5 Dress Act nominee, and the PRCA National Finals Rodeo opening act in 2019 to three stints as CPRA Canadian Finals Rodeo entertainment act and a CPRA/PRCA Calgary Stampede entertainment act for many years. 

The One-Armed Bandit (June 25-29)
Audiences will certainly get a huge kick out of the One-Armed Bandit, who was born to a rancher in Shidler, Oklahoma. 

One unforgettable day, John Payne climbed up a telephone pole to cut some wires back in 1973 but wasn’t aware of the volatile state of those wires. 

Suddenly, 7,200 volts of electricity shot through his body for 10 seconds. 

Despite the electrocution, he survived. 

The doctors wanted to cut his left leg off but he wouldn’t hear of it. 

“I can’t ride a horse with one leg and if I can’t ride a horse, then I don’t want to live.” 

He did, however, lose his right arm due to his injuries. 

After several weeks in the Tulsa Burn Center, Payne checked himself out and went home. 

In 1975, love came calling. He met Judy Crabtree whom he married. 

The couple are responsible for what is now the most sought-after gang in the rodeo world a.k.a. The One Arm Bandit and Company. 

Meanwhile, nothing slows this feisty guy down. 

Payne believes anything can be accomplished with enough nerve, determination, and the drive to excel. 

The Kids Wild Pony Race (June 26-30)
Described as a Ponoka Stampede ‘spectators’ favourite,’ this wild, exciting, and often humorous event features future rodeo stars aged 8-12. 

Sit back and enjoy the performance during the evening chuckwagon races as the kids try to tame a wild pony long enough to get a rider from their three-person team aboard for a two-jump ride. 

This is a timed event, so the team’s goal is to get the rider on the pony as quickly as possible. 

It’s a thoroughly engaging performance from start to finish. 

The Flying Cross Jockeys (June 26-30)
Another not-to-be-missed performance comes from the talents of the Flying Cross Jockey Club, who learn all about horsemanship, teamwork, and being accountable to the horses, each other, and themselves. 

Their extensive education is sharply reflected by what they bring to their performances. 

The program aims to not only create amazing athletes but also build ambassadors for the sport of racing and, in the process, teach these kids all kinds of life skills. 

These tremendous skills will be on full display during the evening chuckwagon races. 

Other infield performances to watch for include the Grand Entry Cowgirls and the Bullfighters.