Directions: From Edmonton, continue on Hwy 2 south, take exit 450A to access Hwy 53 east toward Ponoka. Merge onto Hwy 53 and turn left at Hwy 2A at the crossroads of Hwys 2A and 53.

Distance: 106 km, or about 1 hour and 16 minutes, from Edmonton; about 56 km north, or 40 minutes, from Red Deer.

Info: 403-783-6363; www.ponoka.org.

Originally a railway stop known only as Siding 14, Ponoka is the Blackfoot word for elk, which is an odd choice considering that the Blackfoot had departed many years earlier and it was Cree tribes that were prominent in the area when the town was named. Many settlers came to the Battle River valley from eastern Canada and the American Midwest. In 1912, Alberta’s first mental health care facility was founded here. Today the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury is a facility renowned for its brain injury rehabilitation programs.

Ponoka is home to 6,800 residents. A downtown stroll reveals a quaint, turn-of-the-century streetscape with well-preserved storefronts. The community has more than eight kilometres of paved trails and is connected to the Trans Canada Trail system About 15 kilometres south of town, the j.j. Collett Natural Area offers 257 hectares of rolling landscape with 18 kilometres of trails ideal for orienteering, hiking, and observing nature.

Along with western Canada’s largest single-day livestock auction, the town hosts an annual stampede, a seven-day event that is Canada’s largest outdoor pro rodeo. Other annual events include the Downhill Soap Box Derby (June), Jace Harty Memorial Bull Riding (June), Ride for Sight (June), Annual Ponoka Stampede (Canada Day Weekend), Ponoka Piston Poppers Road Run (July), Vintage Motorcycle Rally (July), Ponoka County Fair and Horse Show (August), and Summer Send Off Music Festival (Labour Day weekend). A farmers’ market is held at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex (4310-54th Street) from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. May to September.


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