The Grande Prairie Stompede will not only kick off the 2023 World Professional Chuckwagon Association Pro Tour but will also be the first stop of the association’s new Big Five Elite Series.
WPCA General Manager Paul Ryneveld says the shows which make up the Big Five Elite Series outside of the Stompede, are the Ponoka Stampede, Strathmore Stampede, Battle of the Rockies in Rocky Mountain House, and the World finals at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in Balzac. He explains there are 20 drivers taking part in the series, with the idea being each of the big five shows has a team made up of four drivers.
“[The drivers] will compete for points based off of their standings, and points based off of their professionalism ext., which will basically accumulate throughout the season with a winning team being named at the end of the year,” Ryneveld says.
Each of the teams in the series is connected back to a local western store, with the Grande Prairie team being connected to Keddies Tack and Western Wear. Ryneveld says this connects the sport of chuckwagon racing back to the people in the community because they are supporting and representing a part of it.
“I think it eventually can evolve to where you know there will probably be some revelries amongst the shows as time goes on, it could take a few years, but not anything different than the Battle of Alberta to a point.”
He adds the series will also give wagon fans another reason to follow their favourite drivers, and in time even their favourite teams.
“The teams will change over the years, because [they] are selected like a draft,” Ryneveld says.
The Grande Prairies team was announced during the April 1st Gala and Tarp Sale and consists of peace country chuckwagon drivers Kirk Sutherland, Dayton Sutherland, Dean Dreger, and Derek Aebly. The other four teams will be announced over the next several weeks.
Outside of the Big Five Series announcement, the total of this year’s WPCA tarp sales was $514,650, up $143,600 from last year. Rae Croteau Jr. received the top bid of the night for the second year in a row, selling for $30,000.
The Grande Prairie Stompede will take place from May 31st to June 4th.