New ‘jewel’ in WPCA crown
By Gaven Crites
They call it the Half Mile of Hell, and it’s making a stop in Saskatchewan this summer.
The World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA), which primarily races in Alberta, recently inked a deal to bring a race to Prairieland Park in Saskatoon the weekend of June 6-9.
According to WPCA president Arnold McKernon, the new stop means good things for drivers and fans in the province.
“Adding a show of this magnitude really helps our fanbase and the sport,” McKernon said. “We have a lot of drivers in our circuit that come from that area. It’s a good opportunity for them to race in front of their hometown fans.”
Two of those drivers are from Meadow Lake. Gary Gorst and his son Logan have a long history in chuckwagon racing with the elder Gorst saying the new stop in Saskatoon is excellent news.
“I used to race there and had some good races,” he said. “I won a horse trailer and won two or three times. So, Saskatoon’s been good to me. I hope it continues.”
Drivers log a lot of miles travelling to different events during the racing season, Gorst explained, but in this case the added stop means he can pass through Meadow Lake on his way to Saskatoon from Grand Prairie, AB.
“We’re restructuring our whole association and trying to make it better for the drivers,” McKernon said. “Financially, it’s an expensive sport and we need to go where we can draw the big crowds.”
The opportunity to race in Saskatoon, a first for the WPCA, came about as the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) also continues to look at booking a race meet with Prairieland Park this season after cancelling last year’s event.
Brenda Sapergia of Prairieland Park said they’re currently facing “space availability” issues at the park with work being done on a new bridge nearby.
“We’re undergoing construction stress,” Sapergia said, adding the CPCA cancelled last year because they felt there was not enough room for their horses under the paddock should it begin to rain.
Calling it a potential “jewel” in line with the Ponoka Stampede, Grand Prairie Stompede and the Calagary Stampede, McKernon said Saskatoon is a good fit for the WPCA tour.
“We’re always looking to expand our shows and there was an opportunity to have a sit down with the Prairieland people and discuss it,” he said. “We were kind of surprised they were very interested in having us there. We started talking and negotiating and next thing we knew we had an agreement. It’s another one of the shows our drivers showed a lot of interest in.”
The WPCA signed a one-year agreement with Saskatoon with the option for an additional three.