Kelly Sutherland’s legendary career and the sport of chuckwagon racing will be celebrated this weekend. Evergreen Park, the Grande Prairie Stompede and the Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation are hosting a salute to “The King” in Clarkson Hall Saturday night.
Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman says the groups wanted a way to recognize Sutherland at his retirement, and take a look at what the sport he dominated has meant to the Grande Prairie community.
“He’s so well known around the world and has done a lot to not just further the sport, but to put Grande Prairie on the map. He’s one of a number of celebrities that have gone on to do incredible, world renowned things and there’s not many people that don’t know Kelly Sutherland.”
Sutherland’s 50 year career began as an outrider in 1967, taking the reins as a driver the next year. He went on to win the World Championship 12 times and was the runner up in another another 11. He also has 12 Calgary Stampede wins under his belt, and is considered to be the most successful driver ever.
The Grande Prairie Stompede was first held in 1977 and Sutherland was its first president. Current president Terri Ellen Sudnik marvels at the investment he’s made over his lifetime into the “cowboy way of life.”
“It is unbelievable the impact that Kelly has made in chuckwagon racing and what that’s done for the local economy as well, in our opinion, the province of Alberta. You look at an individual that’s dedicated his entire life to a sport.”
Sudnik says the Stompede puts back more than $6 million dollars into the local economy annually.
Saturday’s tribute will also pay respect to the role chucks have had in the Grande Prairie community. Sudnik calls it a unique sport in how it relies on camaraderie between the athletes and their animals.
“We have to start telling our own story because it’s an unbelievable sport in how it pulls communities together. You look at Kelly’s career and he’s put Grande Prairie on the map; chuckwagon racing has done that.”
The event is sold out. Residents and visitors to the city can still see an exhibit on the history of chuckwagon racing in the Heritage Discovery Centre in Centre 2000.