Grande Prairie’s own Kelly Sutherland was honoured this past weekend by the World Professional Chuckwagon Association when he received the Past Member Tribute Award. Sutherland, who was inducted last year into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, is considered to be the most winningest driver of the sport with 12 World Championships, 12 Calgary Stampede Championships, and numerous other championships and awards from around the sport.
Before Sutherland was brought on stage Saturday at the WPCA Awards Banquet, a video of his 50 years in the sport was played. Sutherland says that he was awestruck because his entire life was flashed in front of him, but he felt very fortunate to have achieved everything he did in his career because chuckwagon racing is a sport where you need more than just determination and skill but luck as well.
“I don’t know who to thank, to accomplish what I did,” Sutherland said. “As a 16, 17-year-old I was just happy to win one show, any show because you were just running behind all the time.”
Sutherland shares that in the last two decades of his career he felt like he knew if he was going to win a show or not. He says he could tell because of his knowledge of wagon racing, and his confidence in his horses, he adds he wished he had that skill early on in his career. But, Sutherland explains the sport of chuckwagon racing is a humbling one, in a split second you can go from being a winner to a loser.
Sutherland says that he is grateful to have the relationships that he formed with the different committees throughout the sport. He says over the years he made friendships with committee members through negotiations and competitions.
“I actually talk to the committee members far more than the wagon drivers now that I have retired. I keep contact because I am interested to see if the shows make money, because if the shows don’t make money then there is no future for the sport.”
Sutherland says that not only was it an honour to be recognized, but it is an honour to have both his grandsons, Dayton Sutherland and Tuff Dreger, along with his son Mark Sutherland competing in the sport. He says that when he looks at his grandsons especially he knows that there are a lot of things they probably believe are unachievable, because he thought the same thing when he was their age, but nothing is truly unachievable and his career shows that.