Four months before guests gather to watch the chuckwagons race at the Calgary Stampede, potential sponsors for the chuckwagon canvases gather on Stampede Park to place their bids. The 2017 Canvas Auction, presented by GMC, took place Thursday, March 23 and set the stage for the always long-awaited and much-anticipated GMC Rangeland Derby. As a born and raised Calgarian, I’ve been to the races plenty of times, but seeing the other side of it at the Canvas Auction put a whole new perspective on the build-up to, and community pride of, the drivers and support for the sport.

As folks gathered on Stampede Park, hearty handshakes were given between bidders and drivers, while naturally curious fans gathered in a separate viewing area to see how it would all play out. In the Boyce Theatre where the action was happening, drivers were led onto the stage one-by-one by the 2017 Stampede Royalty; Indian Princess, Savanna Sparvier, Stampede Queen, Meagan Peters, and Stampede Princess’ Brittany Lloyd and Lizzie Ryman. The drivers were put under the spotlight, with the highest bidder winning the right to sponsor the driver and have their brand advertised on the canvas of the particular sponsored wagon.

Thirty-six humble and proud drivers accepted warm welcomes from the audience, and received various degrees of sponsorship from corporate and private businesses, amassing an impressive $2,422,500 by nights end. Topping out the bids was veteran driver Kelly Sutherland, bringing in an impressive $110,000, with Rick Fraser and Jason Glass rounding out the top three, both taking in $95,000 each.

Pictured Above: Kelly Sutherland enjoying the moment with family. Photo Courtesy of Dina Sutherland
Pictured Above: Kelly Sutherland enjoying the moment with family. Photo Courtesy of Dina Sutherland

Having the opportunity to see the community support for the drivers gave this newbie a great perspective outside of my annual visits to the races. And after seeing the dedication from the drivers, and the support from the city, I realized why it’s no wonder why the GMC Rangeland Derby continues to be one of the most popular events on Stampede Park.

To buy tickets for this year`s Evening Show, click here.