Sylvan Lake’s very own Ashley Akkermans, 22, was crowned Ponoka Stampede Queen 2015 on Ponoka Stampede grounds last Friday. As queen, she’ll act as an ambassador for the sport of rodeo for a year.
During Stampede week in late June, Akkermans will attend sponsorship breakfasts, participate in the parade and ride in the rodeos.
She’ll also attend rodeos in Innisfail, Caroline, Rocky Mountain House and Calgary.
“The main part of Stampede Queen is the rodeo and to inform people on the sport of rodeo,” Akkermans said. “You do that by attending various events and doing lots of public relations.”
Being crowned rodeo queen is a huge achievement for Akkermans. The feat, she said, has been a longtime dream.
Having been raised in Ponoka and attended the Stampede every year, Akkermans said she remembers watching the rodeo queens riding their sparkling horses and wanting to be one of them.
She said she always wanted to be a cowgirl, and was introduced to the western and riding world when she got her own horse.
“I started to realize what a rodeo queen actually does,” Akkermans said. “It’s so cool, you get to meet so many amazing people within the sport. I get to represent the sport that I am so passionate about, and that’s my job. I get to travel around riding lots of different horses.”
Akkermans competed in a one-day competition that included horsemanship, public speaking, modelling and an interview with members of the Ponoka Stampede Committee and a few past rodeo queens.
Out of all the competitions, Akkermans said she really enjoyed the personal interview.
“They asked me why I would be good for their queen,” Akkermans said. “They asked me questions on rodeo and animal welfare, and personal questions on my commitment to see if I would qualify to do this job and to handle it well.”
Stepping into the role of a rodeo queen will be a transition for Akkermans, who has been studying psychology at Red Deer College.
“It’s surreal, I think I am still in shock,” Akkermans said. “I’ve gone from being a college student to all of a sudden taking on this amazing role that will keep me very busy throughout the summer.”
Akkermans said after she completes her reign as Ponoka Stampede Queen 2015, she’ll have more opportunities because of it.
“To have that title of being a rodeo queen is a big deal,” Akkermans said. “People look at that and really appreciate it.”