4-Hers work behind the scenes with chuckwagons

Three 4-H members got the chance to see just what life is like behind the scenes for the cowboys that stampede fans love to stomp their feet to

By Adam Eisenbarth

It’s not just a figure 8 through the barrels and a charge around the track; there’s plenty of work involved in a chuckwagon driver’s week at the Ponoka Stampede.

Three 4-H members got the chance to see just what life is like behind the scenes for the cowboys that stampede fans love to stomp their feet to.

4-Hers from New Sarepta, Valleyview and Rimbey were paired with three chuckwagon drivers as part of a mentorship program organized by the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, 4-H and EnCana.

This was the fifth year of the program and members wrote essays to qualify.

From helping muck the barns, to washing saddles and bridles, members participated in a variety of aspects throughout the week.

“I’ve had a lot of fun and learned a lot about chuckwagon racing that I didn’t think happened,” said Courtney Mannix of Rimbey, after being presented with a certificate on the infield.

Mannix was paired with veteran driver Rick Fraser, who claimed top honours in the 1983 Ponoka Stampede in just his second year as a driver.

“He’s funny and a nice guy. He likes to joke around a lot.”

Mannix learned a lot about the sport throughout the week and was surprised that the excitement of the half-mile of hell isn’t the only rush the drivers had to deal with.

“It’s a rush to get ready to get out here. I didn’t know it was like that. I thought it was a little more relaxed.”

Mannix was interested by the amount of work that goes into the weeklong production.

“I took a lot of respect for the chuckwagon racers and what they go through, waking up at six o’clock to feed the horses.”

It was a rare opportunity for the high school barrel racer, but for now it sounds like she’ll be sticking to barrel racing.

“I don’t know if I’d be a chuckwagon racer. It’s a lot of work and I’m not a morning person.”

Mark Sutherland and Layne MacGillivray were the other drivers to take part in the program.