Kinsmen sports dinner raises funds for park

Champion chuckwagon driver Gary Gorst (left) and former Saskatchewan Roughrider Wes Cates chat prior to the Meadow Lake Kinsmen Sports Dinner Friday evening. Attendance for the dinner was down from previous years. The event itself served as a fundraiser for the local Kin Park.

Champion chuckwagon driver Gary Gorst (left) and former Saskatchewan Roughrider Wes Cates chat prior to the Meadow Lake Kinsmen Sports Dinner Friday evening. Attendance for the dinner was down from previous years. The event itself served as a fundraiser for the local Kin Park.

by Phil Ambroziak

The ability to connect with the fans is a skill all great athletes possess.

And, it’s one former Saskatchewan Roughrider Wes Cates and World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) driver Gary Gorst had an opportunity to demonstrate recently when they appeared at this year’s Meadow Lake Kinsmen Sports Dinner. Held at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre April 25, the third annual dinner featured a silent auction and an opportunity for those in attendance to hear from two of the top men in their respective sports.

“Wes Cates is a big draw because of the fact he was a Roughrider and because he’s a great player,” remarked Meadow Lake Kinsmen vice-president Evan Haubrich. “He even has a Grey Cup ring from when he was with the team back in 2007. As for Gary, we thought it would be nice to recognize one of our local sports celebrities. While lifelong residents are likely familiar with him, people who’ve moved here in the last 10 years or so may not know of all the trials he’s had to go through to make it to where he is today.”

Set to begin his third WPCA season, Gorst placed 10th overall last year and seventh in 2012. He also drove for many years with the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) and has raced at the Calgary Stampede on several occasions. While renowned throughout western Canada for his success on the track, Gorst’s message last week covered more than his famed chuckwagon career.

“I talked about all the sports I used to play in high school and how my family followed in my footsteps,” Gorst said.

During his high school days Gorst played basketball, volleyball, football and slowpitch.

“I believe we were the first ones (from the school) to win provincials in volleyball and basketball,” Gorst said. “That would have been around 1971-72 and, that year, we went 33-0 in basketball.”

Gorst, who resides near Meadow Lake, also said it was an honour to be part of this year’s Kinsmen Sports Dinner.

“Throughout my wagon career, the people have always been there to support me, so this is sort of my way of paying things back,” he said.

Cates, originally from Columbus, Ohio, said he was pleased to be invited to be part of Friday’s dinner.

“This is my first time in Meadow Lake,” he said.

The college All-American spoke about his life growing up, his early experiences with the sport and his Canadian Football League (CFL) career that ultimately led to five seasons with the Riders. He also said he enjoys the opportunity to meet with fans of both the team and of the sport in general.

“I probably started doing stuff like this (speaking engagements) around 2008,” Cates said. “It’s always fun to go to different communities and have everyone show you what their community is all about. The spectators play just as important of a role in the game as we do.”

Although an exact total was unavailable at press time, funds raised from the Kinsmen Sports Dinner will go toward upgrading the local Kin Park.

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