Ever wondered what actually happens behind the track on a daily basis behind the scenes at the GMC Rangeland Derby? I had the opportunity to catch up with Ken Stuart, a member of the Chuckwagon Committee to learn some more about the Chucks.
1. How did you get involved with Chuckwagons?
As a kid I was friends with a neighborhood family that were Chuckwagon advertisers. Then my wife gave me a membership in the Pardners Chuckwagon Team, and here we are over 20 years later doing one of the things I love.
2. You’re very passionate about the sport and the people involved in it. What makes the Chucks at Calgary Stampede so special?
I think it is the gathering together of the best Chuckwagon people in the world and the close relationships that are associated with the “Chuckwagon Family”. Competition on the track is fierce but they all take care of each other after the races are over, and that is very special.
3. What have been some of your roles on the Committee?
I have had several roles since joining the Committee. I have been a wagon caller during the races, I have been responsible for media barn tours during the day, and since I am one of the few Committee members that have time off during the Calgary Stampede I do whatever needs to be done. I am currently responsible for the Outrider Recognition Program as well as an advertiser liaison for two wagons.
4. It takes a lot of people to put this all together, how do you guys do it?
We have close to 40 people on our Committee during Stampede week. Our Committee is very diverse and knowledgeable with many people bringing special skills to the table. This base allows us to work together and at the same time allows us to use our skills to contribute to the success of the “Show”.
5. How long is an average day for you and your fellow volunteers during the 10 day show?
My day is quite long, sometimes from 6:30 AM to midnight; but I usually try and get some down time for an hour or two in the afternoon. It may be long, but if you are having fun you don’t notice the time.
6. Do you have one standout memory from all your years at the track?
I have a whole bunch of them but probably the most satisfying was last year’s successful implementation of the first ever Outstanding Outrider Award at the Calgary Stampede. These are Cowboys that deserve some recognition.
7. Can you give a little bit of insight into what happens behind the scenes in the barns?
Sure: the mornings usually begin with the barn help walking horses and then a video review for the drivers to review the previous day’s races. Around 4:00 PM in the afternoon the anticipation begins to rise as the advertiser’s guests begin to arrive in the barns. The excitement continues to rise until an hour before race time. The barns are then cleared of guests and the outriders horses are moved to the infield. Just prior to the start of the show the first heat of wagons begin to hook up their horses and warm up around the H barn and the races begin. After the races are done we welcome all the guests back in to enjoy the atmosphere.
8. For newcomers to the Calgary Stampede, what do you think is the most exciting aspect of coming down to watch the Chucks?
I think the most exciting part of being there for the races is the sound and feel of 4 wagons and 32 horses coming down the home stretch at the same time. It is something you will never forget. It sends a chill down your spine.
9. What do you see for the future of the sport?
I would like to see the sport grow and become one of our premier sports in Western Canada. The excitement is addictive.
10. What is your personal “Promise” for this year’s Calgary Stampede?
I “Promise” to get my boots dirty. Mission accomplished many times over!
Thank you Ken, it was wonderful to gain some insight into what happens behind the scenes at the GMC Rangeland Derby. You and your Committee do an incredible job putting on a safe, exhilarating show for 17,000 lucky spectators every evening. I hope that all you Calgary Stampede blog readers make it down to check out the Final Four “Dash for Cash” tonight at 8:00pm. It’s going to be an exciting night of Chuckwagon Racing with a $150,000 final heat!