The who’s who of the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) canvas auction converged on Ponoka to bid on their favourite drivers for the Ponoka Stampede.
Held at Ponoka Stampede’s Stagecoach Saloon Friday, May 6, the auction is the last big one of the year before the season gets under way. This year’s total money brought in $330,000, a drop from last year’s record-breaking sale of $519,000.
Kurt Bensmiller earned the highest bid with $20,000 from the Tsuu T’ina Nation. The average bid was $9,166.67 and the lowest bid was $4,500.
The Ponoka Stampede stop is a popular one as it sets the stage for the Calgary Stampede, explained Stampede vice-president Blair Vold. With the downturn in the economy, Vold said he was expecting a bit of a drop in amount auctioned.
He did say that one of the big draws of the Ponoka Stampede, and seeing the WPCA tour come through town, is the small-town western feel of the Ponoka Stampede. He suggests it is a welcoming environment for fans and wagon drivers.
“We always say that it’s a cowboy’s rodeo,” added Stampede president Mike Stretch.
Vold feels the drivers enjoy Ponoka’s rodeo because it sets the stage for them competitively for the Calgary Stampede but it also gives them a chance at some great prize money, on top of the chance to win the $50,000 Dash for Cash final showdown event.
“We’re over $250,000 on the prize money,” said Vold.
“It’s a feather in their hat if they can win Ponoka,” he added.
“And this year is our 80th,” said Stretch. “There’s a lot of special things that are going to be happening this year.”
WPCA ready for the season
WPCA president Ed Wittchen enjoys the Ponoka stop of the tour, stating the committee works hard to ensure the drivers are taken care of.
Weathering the downturn in the economy takes a balance of drivers getting to know buyers and creating long-term relationships.
“We know we’ve got to do something with Saskatoon, (Sask.) and something with Medicine Hat because we don’t get enough local buyers,” said Wittchen.
To address that challenge WPCA has created a committee to develop ways of creating local interest. Some drivers have also looked at creative ways to garner sponsorship by getting different groups to support portions of a series, thereby getting full coverage.
Other things drivers do is if they have a home base along the routes is only take the horses needed for those specific races.
Drivers, sponsors and amount bid are as follows:
* Kurt Bensmiller, Tsuu T’ina Nation, $20,000.00;
* Chad Harden, Image Distributors, $18,000.00;
* Codey McCurrach, Nelson Bros. Oilfield Services Ltd., $18,000.00;
* Troy Dorchester, Team Rig & Supply, $18,000.00;
* Chanse Vigen, Chanse Vigen Outlaws, $18,000.00;
* Obrey Motowylo H & E Oilfield Services Ltd., $16,000.00;
* Layne MacGillivray, ATB Financial, $15,000.00;
* Gary Gorst, WPW Inc., $13,000.00;
* Rick Fraser, Direct Horizontal Drilling, $12,000.00;
* Kirk Sutherland, Legacy Ford, $11,000.00;
* Luke Tournier, Quickline Crane & Rigging Inc., $10,000.00;
* Kelly Sutherland, Red Deer Motors, $10,000.00;
* Troy Flad, Ironwood Building Corp., $9,000.00;
* Evan Salmond, Vold Jones Vold Auction, $8,000.00;
* Jason Glass, Birchcliff Energy Ltd., $8,000.00;
* Doug Irvine, B & R Eckel’s Transport Ltd., $8,000.00;
* Mark Sutherland, Friends of Sutherland Racing, $8,000.00;
* Roger Moore, Rusway Construction Ltd., $8,000.00;
* Colt Cosgrave, High River Autoplex & RV, $8,000.00;
* John Walters, Pidherney’s, $7,000.00;
* Mitch Sutherland, Adams Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd., $7,000.00;
* Cody Fraser, Midwest Pipelines Inc., $6,500.00;
* Layne Bremner, Rai Lynn Trucking, $6,500.00;
* Rae Croteau Jr., Goodman Roofing, $6,000.00;
* Vern Nolin, Denton’s, $6,000.00;
* Dustin Gorst, Service Plus Inns & Suites, $6,000.00;
* Logan Gorst, Central Alberta Tile One, $5,500.00;
* Chad Fike, Eagle Builders, $5,500.00;
* Jordie Fike, Busted Ladies Lingerie, $5,000.00;
* Darcy Flad, Westaskiwin Ready Mix, $5,000.00;
* Mike Vigen, Pugh Farms, $5,000.00;
* Curtis Morin, Ponoka Health Food Store, $5,000.00;
* Ross Knight, Stagecoach Saloon, $4,500.00;
* Cody Ridsdale, Triple K Oilfield Services, $4,500.00;
* Cliff Cunningham, Horseshoe Paving, $4,500.00;
* Jim Knight, Ponoka FCSS, $4,500.00.