For three generations the Dorchesters have become an almost household name among those who love the western heritage sport of chuckwagon racing.
Troy Dorchester is the third generation driver with the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) who remembers watching his grandfather Tommy Dorchester race. His grandfather’s name is honoured with Ponoka Stampede’s $50,000 Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash.
“Grandpa always loved horses and he grew up around horses,” said Dorchester in an interview.
His great grandparents brought 400 to 500 head of horses up from the United States before eventually settling in the Pigeon Lake area. “Grandpa just fell in love with anything to do with horse racing.”
Tommy became involved with flat horse racing before eventually settling into the sport of chuckwagon racing. “For 50 years he raced a wagon and he loved every minute of it.”
“It’s just kind of been in our blood,” added Dorchester.
As a younger kid Dorchester, being a bigger kid, knew that if he was going to get into the sport it would be chuckwagon driving. He started out with the the pony chucks helping with Chad Harden. In his teens, he bought some ponies and became closely involved in racing.
“I’ve been going ever since. This is my 24th year running a big wagon and I’ve had a lot of highlights and a lot of dreams come true,” said Dorchester.
What he misses the most is when the Ponoka Stampede had four outriders. That number was reduced to two in recent years. “To me it’ll never be the same. Chuckwagon racing is a team sport.”
He misses seeing the 16 outriders like a “hornet’s nest” coming from behind the drivers to the finish line but he also feels the last 24 years have brought lasting memories seeing legends in the industry race. “I raced against them guys.”
For the next 10 years, Dorchester figures he’s set with racing in the western heritage sport, but unless there is some expansion, he worries drivers will eventually stop competing.
“It needs to go to the next level in the next 10 years. Or I hate to say it, but it might not be here in 15 years, you don’t know,” he offered.
The television show Half Mile of Hell was one way to increase public awareness but adding shows and races to the United States markets may bring further fans and a potential to do runs down where there are other rodeos. It could make the job a full time experience.
“We need to have another Calgary because guys are going broke slowly,” said Dorchester.
He feels there’s an opportunity to sponsor drivers into the United States to develop interest in the sport. “You’ve gotta go with the whole show.”