J.D.A RACEWAY IS ON TRACK AT EVERGREEN
For the first time since it opened in 1982 the race track at Evergreen Park has a name.
For the next 10 years, at least, the complex will be known as J.D.A. Raceway.
J.D.A. Ventures, with locations in Grande Prairie and Whitecourt, has purchased the naming rights to the track.
“J.D.A. Ventures Ltd. is very happy to be sponsoring the Raceway at Evergreen Park,” said Jarvie Dawson of J.D.A., son of founder Jarvis Dawson. “The track is somewhere where friends and family get together, and as a family-owned company, that is something that speaks to the core values of our business. We are excited to be connected to such a large part of the community and all the memories to be made out at the track.”
The first memories will be formed next week when the chuckwagons and rodeo performers hit the track for the 41st annual Grande Prairie Stompede.
“We’re very, very thrilled the track sponsor is such a strong community supporter as the Dawson family is,” said Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman. “We would like to develop and grow and expand the track and add different things. So, we are going to work with the Dawson family and the Dawson group to be able to enhance and grow that.”
In many ways J.D.A. Ventures Ltd. history mirrors that of Evergreen Park.
J.D.A. owner Jarvis Dawson started – like the Grande Prairie Regional Agricultural & Exhibition Society (Evergreen Park) did with a county fair consisting of some tables of crafts and a few farmyard animals in downtown Grande Prairie in 1910 - from humble beginnings, worked hard to create something special and has seen his company grow to become an important part of the community.
Established in 1994 as a one-truck hotshot company operating out of an automotive shop (that’s where the “A” comes from in J.D.A.) today J.D.A. is a well-known light and heavy oilfield hauler operating out of branches in Grande Prairie and Whitecourt (established 2015) with over 150 pieces of equipment and 75-plus employees.
Jarvis is the middle son of teachers Martha and Leo Dawson and grew up in the community. In 1990, he married his wife Kim and they have four children - Mandy, Jarvie, and twins Dusty and Dylan. Kim has been his loyal and loving partner in life and in business.
At the age of 16 Jarvis started growing his infamous mustache, for which he is well known today, and thus began his career in the oilfield industry. In 1986, Jarvis bought a three-bay service station and worked as a power tong hand occasionally on weekends to meet the needs of his family. There was plenty of struggle in the early years, but it was at the service station where he got his feet wet as an entrepreneur and started learning the challenges of owning a business.
Jarvis is deeply committed to the community, local charities and organized sports. One of his joys as a young teen was raising a 4-H steer, and he continues to support the 4-H program. As his sons matured through hockey leagues, he began to support local team programs and still continues in that commitment with the donation of transportation for a number of sports teams including the J.D.A. Kings hockey team. A number of other community organization and charities have been recipients of the generosity of Jarvis and Kim.
The commitment to the community continues with the naming rights to the J.D.A. Raceway at Evergreen Park. The 10-year agreement is valued at $25,000 per year.
J.D.A. Raceway is part of a complex that includes Gordon Badger Stadium, the Pines Restaurant & Casino and the Pines Family Restaurant. While the track is active in the spring, summer and fall the facility is open year-round.
Jarvis Dawson came up with the name for the track.
“When he first said he wanted to call it J.D.A. Raceway I thought that sounded like a stock car track so I googled raceway and found there are a lot of horse racing tracks called raceways in North America,” said Evergreen Park Marketing and Sponsorship Manager Don Moon. “J.D.A. Raceway also rolls off the tongue very nicely so it’s a very appropriate fit.”
Following Stompede, Boots & Moccasins Chuckwagon Racing & Powwow Weekend will be held June 15-17 and then in July and August J.D.A. Raceway hosts The Horses At Evergreen Park. One of the bigger events of September is the South Peace Horse Club Trials. The track also hosts events like monster trucks, Nitro Circus, high school rodeo and more.
J.D.A. Raceway, considered one of the safest horse racing tracks in North American, is 7/8th of a mile and is made of sand and loam with a clay base.
Hear that sound? It’s hoofbeats in the distance!
That can only mean one thing – the steeds are rumbling towards Grande Prairie in preparation for The Horses At Evergreen Park.
You can get your bet on, watching live pari-mutuel racing, starting Saturday, July 7. The Horses go every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday, August 26. Post time for Friday and Saturday is 6:30 p.m. until Friday, August 17 when it switches to 6 p.m. All Sundays are at 1 p.m.
Horse racing in the area is a tradition that dates back to 1911 when the first “official” competition was held in downtown Grande Prairie going from 101 Ave. and 101 St. down to Bear Creek and back.
The photo to the right was taken almost 100 years ago – on July 1, 1918.
There were plenty of official, and unofficial, races at county fairs and other events leading into the second half of the 20th century when pari-mutuel racing became officially official at the County Fairgrounds on the east side of the city.
For over 35 years pari-mutuel racing has been a fixture at Evergreen Park and has come a long way since that first “official” race on that dusty downtown road.
Today, jockeys bolt out of a fancy starting gate (replacing a flag that signalled the start of races back in the day) and roar past a grandstand that holds almost 3,000 people looking for a share of a purse for their owner that can reach over $50,000. Bettors, who place their bets electronically as well as with a real person at a wicket, can watch in ecstasy, or agony, the last race on replay screens under the Gordon Badger Stadium.
A lot has changed about the sport, but a lot hasn’t. A combination of good horse and a good jockey is usually a good bet for a financial return and support of the public and sponsors is very, very important.
“We have been able to increase our attendance annually over the last few years,” says Evergreen Park Marketing & Sponsorship Manager Don Moon. “It’s a great place to bring the family and enjoy an evening or afternoon on a warm summer day. The fact there is no admission charge, and we have a fun play area for the kids, is certainly appealing. There are not many places you can go today and be entertained for free.”
Financial support from the community is also important.
“Sponsorship is critical to ensuring racing fans in the Grande Prairie area can enjoy live pari-mutuel racing every summer,” said Moon. “We don’t charge admission so there is no revenue stream there. We have to rely on other sources and sponsors are part of that.”
The Horses At Evergreen Park offers a variety of options for companies, or individuals, interested in supporting The Sport Of Kings. Click on The Horses At Evergreen Park to the left to view complete sponsor opportunities information.
It starts with a $20,000 title sponsorship.
“Naming rights for the race season gives a company a lot of exposure in the Peace Country. The company logo would be everywhere – banners, posters, website, promotional screens, newspaper ads and more – and it also includes naming rights to a race day in July and another in August including the VIP tent.”
Naming rights to the Grande Prairie Derby (July 22) and the Peace Country Derby (July 29) are also available.
Every race day the VIP Experience – which includes a tent to entertain staff or clients, or both – is a popular sponsorship.
The Kids Zone, one of the busiest spots at the races, is also up for naming rights.
“One of my favorites is the tote board sponsorship,” said Moon. “There is no spot on site that gets more attention before and after every race.”
There is also a radio reports sponsorship, value of $8,000 but only $2,500 to the sponsor, as well as banners, PA announcements and program ads available.
“All of these sponsorships help keep the sport viable in the Peace Country,” said Moon, “whether it is towards purse money or improving the facility for racing.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring the race program can contact Moon at 587-298-0548.
Put a most wanted poster up at the local post office because Dean Dreger is the most wanted chuckwagon driver in Grande Prairie.
The Western Chuckwagon Association (WCA) president, and current WCA driver, pulled in a cool $17,000 for the Grande Prairie Stompede portion of the WCA tarp sale at JP Outpost Fusion Grill & Bar in Clairmont on Thursday night.
“Being the top bid is pretty humbling, for one,” Dreger said. “It indicates our team has done enough leg work from previous years to earn that spot. It’s humbling to get something like that. I’ve had it, on occassion, quite a few times, but I have a huge support group behind us.”
In total, the dollar value for the seven-race schedule came in at around $400,000. In 2017, the WCA auction went for $337,350 for an eight-race schedule.
“We were up approximately 20%, overall,” Dreger said. “That reflects right back to the community. The economy isn’t very strong but the community is still supporting this sport, that’s promising.”
In terms of sheer dollar value the winner was Derek Aebly who netted $73,500 for the seven confirmed events the WCA is providing.
In 2016, Dreger finished first overall in the WCA standings but didn’t race the entire 2017 schedule after a back injury derailed him at the Teepee Creek Stampede.
“I had to get five vertebrae (operated on) in my back, Dreger said. “I was 13 points out of first, behind Eric Rever, and I just couldn’t race anymore. I went as far as I could but it would have been too dangerous for the horses or myself to (keep racing). I had surgery in September and I feel awesome. It’s incredible. I feel better than I did 10 years ago.”
Dreger can’t hone in on exactly when the injury occurred. What the 51-year-old does know is the injury was just an accumulation of living. Nothing more, nothing less.
“If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself,” Dreger said with a chuckle. “It’s some race-related but it’s just wear and tear. I can’t pinpoint it to one thing, it just all came together at once.”
The warning signs of a bad back were there for sometime but Dreger is like any other man on the planet and he probably ignored the symptoms, wishing them to go away instead of doing anything about it.
“I had a little tweak at the Grande Prairie Stompede and at home in the yard doing chores,” Dreger said. “I wrenched it a bit but I kept racing where I should have laid off. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore at Teepee so I had to quit.”
While recovering from surgery the Grande Prairie resident got a chance to judge a corner at the Dawson Creek Exhibition but that was as close he could go to the track.
“I can’t watch it, it drives me crazy,” Dreger said. “It’s hard to explain in words. The adrenaline is still there when you watch some of your friends and competitors out there. I made it to one show ... and it’s the closest I went back. I couldn’t watch.”
The Guitars and Wagons weekend event at Evergreen Park was cancelled this year due to ‘timing and economics,’ Dreger said, but a new race will take its place on the same weekend, with the customary three days of racing.
Dreger said the WCA is pairing up with an Indigenous group to offer a new racing event in its place.
Details on the new event will be announced later this week
Mark Sutherland won the top bid at the World Professional Chuckwagon Association's Grande Prairie Stompede tarp sale, taking in an $11,000 bid at Maddhatters on Friday night.
It’s time to brush up on the reading skills with a glance at the Daily Racing Form.
Evergreen Park Racing Club is but weeks away from opening up year number two on its horse club.
The rules haven’t changed much, if at all. One share will cost $250 and that’s all the money the club will ask for. Up to 200 memberships are available.
The money goes towards stabling, veterinarian, blacksmith, training fees and other expenses.
However, there are some rules, namely governmental red tape.
“The only requirement is through Horse Racing Alberta,” said Norm Tremblay, manager of Evergreen Park Racing Club. “There’s a licensing form to fill out so you must meet the criteria for the licensing. And you cannot be personally involved with a horse prior to joining the club. You can own a horse after joining the club but not before.”
The owners of the horses come from a wide variety of occupations including: business owners, farmers and politicans. You certainly don’t need to be a member of the House of Saud to sign on the dotted line.
“Last year we had 103 members in the club,” Tremblay said. “We started out the season with two horses and ended the season with three horses. We had a very good season, winning four races. At the end of the season we ended the club and dispersed of the horses, who carried on to race at other tracks.”
Early on, the club expects to expand its stable.
“Our plan is to having three or four horses to start that we’re bringing out of Phoenix Turf Paradise Race Course in Phoenix, Ariz.,” Tremblay said. “They’re probably going to range from five years old up to eight or nine years old.”
Currently, the horses are running in $3,000 claiming races so the total value should cross the finish line in the neighbourhood of $12,000.
Tremblay doesn’t pick the horses himself. He relies on Canadian-born trainer Robertino Diodoro to make the decisions. The manager expects to have horses that run different distances. Some may be milers and others might be in the five to six furlongs distance.
Diodoro has won multiple top-trainer awards at Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, Minn. Last season, he was second in trainer wins at Oaklawn Park with 31. Oaklawn is in Hot Springs, Ark.
“He knows what we’re looking for in horses,” Tremblay said. “The main thing is that they’re sound, in good physical shape. He scouts for us during the winter, and at the end of the meet in Phoenix, which is wrapping up (soon) we start picking horses, making some deals and try to find the best possible options for what we need in Grande Prairie.”
Tremblay has a schedule figured out, hoping to get the horses some rest before they head north to Evergreen. He hopes to get them into action in about a month’s time.
“I’m going to move them to a farm in Phoenix to give them some time off before we move them up,” Tremblay said. “I’ll either bring them to Lethbridge or Edmonton, depending on which trainers are there and how the track conditions are. I’m just going to keep them in shape, maybe run them once or twice, before bringing them to Grande Prairie.”
Diamond Cut, a mare foaled in 2012 in California, will be the first horse to join the stable this year.
In 41 career starts, Diamond Cut has been in the money 19 times, with seven wins, six places and six shows. The mare has won $168,061 in her career, an average of $4,099 per start. She has raced five times this year with two wins and a third-place showing and has earned $11,270.
For people interested in joining the club they can fill out the requisite forms on the Evergreen Park website or fill out forms at the racing facility.
The provincial government continues to be adamant on ensuring the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is approved.
There were only five matches at the XFFC 16: Festival of Fists 2 on Dec. 15 at the ENTREC Centre at Evergreen Park.
Of those, four bouts featured Champion Gym athletes.
The first fight was an amateur lightweight match-up with Champion’s Will Robbins versus a very tough Joe Westbrook by way of Grande Prairie’s Heiho Dojo. This bout went to a unanimous decision in Robbins favour after some spectacular trades on the stand-up and several takedowns throughout all three rounds.
The next amateur match featured lightweight pitted Jesse Bull versus local Riley Kilpatrick. Outside of some occasional strong offence, Kilpatrick was handily outstruck by the taller Bull in a mainly stand up bout.
Rounding out the amateur part of the event was Champion’s featherweight Isaiah Metituk looking for his third win against Brody Zariwny, finding it quickly 2:05 into the first round via guillotine choke.
Then, Champion’s Kyle Francotti made his impressive debut to open up the professional part of the event in the heavyweight division against Ronin Warrior’s Chris Harrison. Initially putting up resistance, Harrison was unable to match the storm of striking, ground and pound and resultant rear naked choke submission by the Bill Mahood product 3:09 minutes into the first round.
The main event, featuring a long-awaited professional rematch between Champion’s Randy Mahon and Progressive Fighting Academy’s Tom O’Connor of Lethbridge, was explosive and short. Early in the first round, O’Connor quickly capitalized on a mistake in the stand-up and was able to get Mahon in a rear naked choke. In an incredible display of courage, Mahon refused to tap out and the referee had to stop the match 44 seconds in.
Fifty years of racing, winning and family.
That was pretty much the theme of the Salute to Kelly Sutherland & Chuckwagon Racing in Clarkson Hall at Evergreen Park on Saturday.
In an event put by Evergreen Park, the Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation and Stompede, Sutherland - who celebrated his 66th birthday the day after the event - was praised, kidded and cajoled by a group of speakers including long-time chuckwagon supporter Al Side; long-time Stompede volunteer Alex McDonald (who spoke on behalf of himself and former Stompede board member Glen Keddie, who couldn't make the event); former world boxing champion from Grande Prairie Willie deWit; Western Chuckwagon Association member Lane Kimble; Chuckwagon Heritage Association member Justin Tidd; and new Stompede president Trevor Denis.
Side's speech stretched back to the Kelly's early days in the sport in the 1960s and those involved, including people like Ralph Vigen, Dave Lewis, Tommy Sinclair, Tommy Dorchester, Archie Hackwell and Kelly's father Max. Hackwell was Kelly's first tarp sponsor and Max was an important builder of the sport. They, along with people like Side himself, Fred Tissington and others, were instrumental in forming Stompede in 1978.
McDonald, who spent years as a volunteer grooming the track at Stompede cutting figure-eights like no one else, said he was told by Keddie to "not blow smoke up anyone's _ss".
He didn't, talking about several Sutherland "adventures" including one that featured some interesting evenings at Sutherland's bar in Clairmont. He also told a story about looking for Kelly on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede and found him behind the bucking chutes sharing knee-slapping laughs, and a few beers, with a "little" guy. McDonald said that was the first time he ever met former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, who became a very good friend of Kelly's.
De Wit, who is now a judge based in Calgary, had some good-natured jabs to hand out and also praised the toughness of chuckwagon drivers. He said it was appropriate on his last night of racing at the Calgary Stampede Kelly ended the night with blood streaming down from his head after, de Wit said, he had been kicked by a horse..
He added, "a horse whisper had spoken with the horse and the horse told him he had wanted to do that for a long time."
Kimble, one of the most successful drivers on the WCA circuit, credits Sutherland for getting him started in the sport.
He got some horsepower from Sutherland - 12-time Calgary Rangeland Derby champion and 12-time World Professional Chuckwagon Association champion - and several other WPCA drivers and, handily won his first-ever race held at Stompede using a foursome of steeds that had hundreds of races under their belt.
Chuckwagon racing was so easy he was sure there would eventually be a sign - just like the one that says Home of Kelly Sutherland on it at the north entrance to the city - erected for him with "Home of Lane Kimble" on it.
On Day 2 of Stompede Kimble hit three barrels and at that point realized that winning over dozens of championships like Sutherland has might be a little more difficult than he thought. Put the sign on hold . . . winning races is more than just about having good horses!
Kimble praised Sutherland's dedication to the sport realizing, now that he has been in it for a few years, it's a year-round job of worry, planning and expertise.
He said he was also amazed with Sutherland's knowledge of horses relating a story about a time in Dawson Creek when he couldn't figure out why one of his horses wasn't pulling properly. He said he spent a lot of time trying to diagnose the problem checking out the horse from top to bottom and finally went to Sutherland, who walked into the barn and within seconds had it figured out. "Your horse has a pulled groin," said Sutherland, who walked out of the barn past a stunned Kimble scratching his head amazed at the quick, and correct, diagnosis.
Tidd and Denis, who have been heavily involved in the sport through their association with the Heritage Foundation and Stompede respectively, also heaped praise on Sutherland for putting Grande Prairie and the local chuckwagon racing scene on the map.
Mayor Bill Given gave greetings from the city comparing Sutherland to feisty just-retired councillor Helen Rice. County of Grande Prairie No. 1 Reeve Leanne Beaupre sent a recorded message telling Sutherland how much an inspiration he has been for County residents and those around the province, country and world.
And then Sutherland, who picked up the nickname ``King`` during his 50-year career, spoke.
His wife Debbie, who has been a backbone of the Sutherland racing operation for 50 years, was just 16 and Kelly 17 when they got married, he said.
He recalls telling his dad, Max, that he and Debbie were getting hitched. Kelly didn't have a job and money was a bit of a problem in the Sutherland family.
He said his dad was broke "and I was broker."
Max told him he wasn't going to work pumping gas so he phoned a friend and got him a job at a rig site in northern Alberta - three weeks on and a week off.
During one of those weeks off he and Debbie were married on a Wednesday and headed out on a honeymoon - to Pouce Coupe. They spent two days there and then "upgraded" for two more days to Dawson Creek . . . and then it was back to the rig for another three weeks.
Debbie and Kelly have three children - Tara, Mark (a WPCA driver) and Mandi as well as six grandchildren (grandson Dayton is also a driver) and one great-grandchild. Tara is married to WCA chuckwagon driver Dean Dreger. Kelly`s brother, Kirk, is also a driver as is Kirk`s son Mitch. Another brother, Murray, died in an accident several years ago.
Kelly, winner of the Grande Prairie Chuckwagon Stompede in 1979, talked about the importance of family and the role they played in his success. He said it was really tough on the family, sometimes with and sometimes without him, from May to September during chuckwagon racing season missing graduations, weddings and other events in Grande Prairie.
He said there are a lot of people who don't like him, but "they don't know me."
Those who know him know about him visiting children at a cancer clinic in Calgary three times a year to pick up their spirits and encourage them.
His father had cancer so Kelly has some experience with the disease. The doctors told Kelly that Max had six months to live after the initial diagnosis. When he told Max the bad news they agreed they weren't going to give up. They didn't, ensuring Max got treatment, kept positive and kept fighting. He lived for 13 years after that and that's the story Kelly can tell to those young people battling the disease thinking there is no hope.
Kelly, other speakers said, worked tirelessly to promote the sport and rolled his sleeves up to do such mundane things as spending hours picking rocks off of race tracks so drivers and horses would be safe; using his own resources to help shape tracks; sponsor events related to the sport of rodeo and chuckwagons racing; and helping out after the disastrous floods in High River.
He was also one of the first chuckwagon drivers who didn`t shy away from a reporter or camera and was, as Al Side said, ``a fresh face for the sport``.
Sutherland said it didn't matter if fans in the stands were cheering for him or against him, the important thing was they were there supporting the sport.
Kelly said, for years, he and former racing legend Tommy Glass of High River didn't get along.
"It never came to fisticuffs," he said, "but we did bump chests a few times."
That all changed in 2011 when the Royal Couple, Kate and William, visited Calgary.
Kelly said Glass had his nose a bit out of joint when he, and not Tommy, was selected to officially meet the couple while Glass had to remain in the seat of the chuckwagon.
Breaking all protocol Sutherland not only showed the Royals some photos and other items from the time the Queen was in Calgary and had her photo taken with Kelly at the Stampede, he also patted William on the back (a huge no-no) saying he would make a good outrider and then also advised him he should ``go sit on the seat of the chuckwagon with Tommy Glass - he`s a world champion driver.``
Sutherland said, ``Tom and I have been good ever since then.``
Kelly also talked about the sport and how expensive it is and the importance of financial and fan support. He said he has spoken to the organizers of the Calgary Stampede about the fact prize money has not been raised in 15 years. He says he is going to remain involved in the promotion of the sport.
Grande Prairie will always be his home, he said, and he is going to ``give back`` to the community in as many ways as he can.
His first two years in the sport he was an outrider and is looking forward to getting back onto horses and spending time with his grandchildren, including a granddaughter who is in love with them and would ``ride when it`s 20 below out.``
If they ride out to Evergreen Park they`ll be able to trot by a road sign that says ``Kelly Sutherland Way`` - the fist-ever road named after anyone at the Park. That honour was bestowed on Sutherland at Saturday`s event. He also received a beautiful silver belt buckle that included his name, the words ``King`` and ``50 Years".
Others said Sutherland`s records will never be broken, but the King himself feels, because of how sport has changed with training, better athletes and other advances his marks will fall at some point.
It will probably take more than 50 years!
For 10 years Trevor Denis has been a volunteer organizer behind the scenes for the Grande Prairie Stompede.
Denis has held positions such as grand entry director, beer garden director and has worked in the VIP area. For the previous two years he served as vice-president.
Last week, Denis was named president of the Stompede at the Annual General Meeting. He takes the position over from Terri Sudnik, who held the position for six years.
“It’s always good to be acknowledged amongst your peers. It’s good to be elected in,” said Denis.
“I’m really happy to have the team that I have to work with this year. I think they’re fantastic. I’m looking forward to it. We have a good group of people and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Sudnik was the event’s longest serving president.
“(Terri taught) a number of things. She was a heck of a president for being in there for six years. There is a lot of government funding and things like that you have to think outside the box to help fund our show and the western way of life,” noted Denis.
Denis, who becomes the 19th president of the Stompede, doesn’t believe the event needs any major changes.
“I think we have a formula there that seems to be working. I think the show’s going to grow, not only in the capacity with the event itself, but the people that partake,” he said.
“(The Stompede) has grown considerably. I was born and raised here, so when it was over at the water towers (on the north-east side of the city) and then when it moved out to Evergreen Park, it’s grown considerably with our midway and helping out Evergreen Park and growing that facility as well, it’s only benefited us.”
Planning is well underway for the 2018 event, noted Denis.
He said organizers are planning to have most of the show’s bookings finalized by the end of 2017. The focus, he noted, will then shift to applying for government grants early in 2018. He said there are a few grants they’re hoping to receive that will help the Stompede “become more sustainable”.
The 2018 Stompede goes May 30 to June 3.
After 50 years, the career of the greatest champion in chuckwagon racing history has come to a close.
Kelly “The King” Sutherland hung up the reins at the end of the 2017 World Professional Chuckwagon Association season.
He is being honored with A Salute To Kelly Sutherland And Chuckwagon Racing in Clarkson Hall at Evergreen Park on Saturday, Oct. 28.
“The Grande Prairie Stompede is the signature event annually at Evergreen Park so we are delighted to be able to host this salute to Kelly on Oct. 28,” said Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman. “The Evergreen Park board initiated the idea of honoring Kelly this fall and both Stompede and the Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation jumped in quickly to be a part of it.
“It is going to be a wonderful event and tribute to a man and the sport of chuckwagon racing. Kelly has done so much for chuckwagon racing and the Grande Prairie area over the last 50 years. It is fitting he is being honored with this salute on the 28th.”
Sutherland leaves the sport as a 12-time Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby champion: 12-time World Champion Chuckwagon Driver; a six-time Calgary Stampede aggregate winner; and an eight-time Ponoka Stampede champion. He also won Stompede II in 1979.
Sutherland is the only driver to have competed in all 40 Grande Prairie Stompedes.
“The legacy and contribution from Kelly Sutherland has placed Grande Prairie region on a world stage and brought recognition to the sport of chuckwagon racing,” said Stompede president Terri Sudnik. “His investment into Canadian western heritage has led the foundation for the Grande Prairie Stompede to give back to our community over the past 40 years.”
Sutherland is a founding member of Stompede and was its first president. Over one million patrons have watched him competed at Stompede since 1978 - an event that contributes $6.5 million dollars back into the local economy annually.
“On behalf of the Grande Prairie Stompede, we tip our hats to the legend Kelly Sutherland and say Thank You!”
The Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation has also been heavily involved in the sport both at Stompede and around the Peace Country with amateur events.
“For 50 years Kelly Sutherland has dedicated his life to the sport of chuckwagon racing and representing Grande Prairie on the world stage,” said Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation president Justin Tidd. “The Grande Prairie Chuckwagon Heritage Foundation is proud to be able to celebrate this amazing accomplishment with Kelly and Debbie and to honor ‘The King’ in his retirement from the sport he shared with the fans of chuckwagon racing for so many years.”
The Oct. 28th event starts at 6 p.m. and continues until 1 a.m. and will include a buffet meal, midnight lunch, special guest speakers and lots and lots of memories.
Tickets are sold out!
Evergreen Park Racing Club 2017 is in the books . . . and the 2018 version is officially underway.
The Evergreen Park board, on Wednesday, officially approved the formation of Evergreen Park Racing Club 2018.
The decision to continue the Club was no doubt made easier by the success of the first-ever racing club in 2017.
Evergreen Park General Manager Dan Gorman made the announcement about the 2018 Club at the 2017 Club windup at Evergreen Park on Thursday night at Badger Stadium at the Park.
It was not just a great year for the Club, but for The Horses At Evergreen Park as well, said Gorman.
Gorman revealed there was a 58 per cent increase in the handle at The Horses At Evergreen Park this year over 2016 . . . and some of that can be attributed to the Evergreen Park Racing Club 2017.
Club horses raced during the July-August pari-mutuel schedule seven times and each time a Club horse was featured Club members came out in droves. Attendance, especially among the younger demographic, was up overall over the season.
Gorman also said the fact there were more and fuller races was a factor in the increased interest and handle. Evergreen Park provided free sawdust bedding for all of the 350-plus horses over the summer and, says Gorman, that encouraged more owners to bring horses to Grande Prairie for the summer.
Most weekends there were over 20 races and most of those races had six to eight horses in each of them.
Full race cards create more interest, more betting and a better handle.
It was also announced on Thursday that each 2017 Club member, a total of 106 of them, would be getting a cheque for $136.80.
Racing Club manager Norm Tremblay, who has owned horses for years, said being able to give Club members a return at the end of a racing season is somewhat unusual. Tremblay (left) is shown in the photo with the first 2018 members - Jan and Joe Gass - and Gorman on the right.
It was announced Thursday that Tremblay will be returning as manager for 2018 and the Club will also be retaining the services of renowned trainer Robertino Diodoro to help the Club “scout” for horses for 2018.
"I would like to thank and congratulate our Club members," said Tremblay. "And to thank Evergreen Park for the support.
"I also want to thank Allen Goodsell (assistant trainer to head trainer Robertino Diodoro) and his team for the horse care and training.”
Tremblay said the Club will likely purchase at least two more thoroughbreds and could upgrade somewhat this year for better quality horses.
Improving on the 2017 numbers would be impressive.
Club horses were in the money – first, second or third – over 70 per cent of the time and won 44 per cent of the time. The best numbers of any owners at Evergreen Park this past summer.
Red N Black Attack raced four times at Evergreen Park and won twice; Xtreme Spell raced twice and was first once; and the third Club horse that appeared at The Horses At Evergreen Park, Dman Doughty, was in the gates once and finished fifth. Another Club horse, Command The Land, raced twice under Club colors at Northlands Park in Edmonton and won once, but was claimed in that winning race and didn’t appear in Grande Prairie.
Tremblay said the 2018 Club horses may again train in Edmonton before venturing to Grande Prairie for the summer season.
For many of the Club members it was their first experience with the sport.
“It was so much fun following our horses and learning about racing,” said Club member Garett Dika, who had never been involved in the sport. “I didn’t get out to many races, but kept on top of it through the Evergreen Park website and the Club Facebook page. It was a lot of fun.”
Dika said he had no idea what a claiming race was until Command The Land was lost to another owner in the spring.
“It was explained to me that’s horse racing. It’s a way to keep things honest and even and I’m all for that. I found out a lot about the sport and I’m looking forward to being a member again in 2018.”
At the windup Thursday many of the 2017 Club members who were in attendance signed up to be part of the 2018 club. Jan Gass was the first returnee and her husband, Joe, the first new recruit for 2018.
Anyone wanting to join the Club can do so in several ways.
It can be done online at www.evergreenpark.ca or by picking up a registration form at the Evergreen Park administration offices in the ENTREC Centre; at the Pines Restaurant & Casino; or by contacting the Park at 780-532-3279 and having a membership for sent.
For more information on the Club contact Tremblay at 780518-7914.
Evergreen Park’s activities have increased substantially over the last year, creating potential to bring in more revenue, park representatives said in a presentation to county council.
One reason for the new activity: Renovations were completed last November on Clarkson Hall, thanks to a federal Canada150 grant and money from the County, said Dan Gorman, the park’s general manager. The hall used to have just one event a year – the farm family banquet. Now 35 events are booked for 2017.
Although the park is still carrying $4.7 million in debt, that’s left over from building facilities such as the ENTREC Centre and the casino, and from work done on the track. They’ve been steadily paying it down and haven’t added any additional long-term debt in the last few years, Gorman said.
“We’re pleased to recognize that five years ago we were over $8 million in long-term debt and we’ve been able to pay that down to 4.7 in 2016.”
Gorman said they’re proud they were able to maintain the facilities and renovate Clarkson Hall and the Drysdale arena despite the downturn.
The park’s operations budget is $6 to $7 million. In 2017 to date, revenues are at $1.8 million and expenses are $1.6 million. That’s a little above the budgeted revenue and a little below budgeted expenses, said finance chair Bridget Hennigar.
“We’re quite happy with the progress we’ve made to date,” she said, adding they’re working on new ways to generate revenue, such as more events. Some examples:
More paint nights are being held at the Pines Restaurant and a new 50-seat family restaurant has opened under the grandstand.
They’re also looking to have more corporate training there during the day time. “We want to utilize that whole park 24-7,” Hennigar said.
Three new user groups have approached the park about potentially having events there: The Grande Prairie Polo Club, the disc golf club and indigenous groups who are looking at the park as a venue for an annual pow wow and other events.
Gorman said the board is considering asking the user groups to provide support in maintaining the park. This could mean a fee or simply asking the groups to donate volunteer hours. The park board will be meeting with user groups to discuss it, Gorman said.
Close to 500,000 visitors come to the park every year, spending $9.4 million. The park’s overall impact on the region is $43 million, more than 90% of which is spent within the City of Grande Prairie, Gorman said.
The numbers come from an independent economic impact study that was done for regional ag societies across Alberta.
The 2017 The Horses At Evergreen Park season ended with purple Frisbees being tossed at a purple tractor tire on August 27, but things also came to an end with lots of smiles.
Mr. Mike’s Paint The Park Purple – Race For The Cure was the final event after 22 days and eight weekends of racing at Gordon Badger Stadium and the smiling was done by more than just the winner of the Frisbee toss.
The entire season was a success – good crowds and an increased handle.
The only downer was the fact one day of racing had to be cancelled because of a smoke hazard caused by the forest fires in British Columbia. For the most part, all of the other races were held under sunny skies and warm weather conditions.
Highlight of the season was the Alberta Derby at Evergreen Park, held on Sunday, Aug. 30. That event drew the largest crowd in two years following a rainy 2016 Derby Day.
The fact that over 350 horses ventured to Evergreen Park for the season was also a plus. Pretty much every night at least five and for the most part six, seven or eight horses left the starting gate for each race. And there were plenty of races with the minimum being six topping out at 10. One weekend there were 25 races over the three days.
The 2017 Mr. Mike’s Paint The Park Purple Stakes was won by Beach Premier. Jockey Larry Munoz was on board. The horse is trained by Floyd Arthur and owned by Excel Farms.
Blandford Stewart ended up the top jockey when the dust had settled at the end of the season and Lyle Magnuson was the top trainer.
Another success at the Park was the first Evergreen Park Racing club 2017. Over 100 people signed up to be “owners” and three times they got to make an appearance in the winner’s circle – twice with Red N Black Attack and once with Extreme Spell. A horse the Club had purchased, Command The Land, also won a race at Northlands Park in Edmonton. In that race he was claimed so the Club lost him, but members still enjoyed following the horse as he ran all summer in Edmonton.
The Club horses have been sold and could make appearances at Edmonton or Lethbridge in the fall.
The 2017 version of the Club will be dissolved soon with owners receiving their share of any profits and Evergreen Park Racing Club 2018 will created and, no doubt, looking forward to The Horses At Evergreen Park next season.
Local racing fans can continue to watch, and wager, on the horses at the Pines Restaurant & Casino. There are 11 screens and two self-bettors in the facility.