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.
The All Pro Canadian Chuckwagon and Chariot Association held its tarp auction for the Grande Prairie Stompede and Teepee Creek Stampede on March 29 at JP Outpost in Clairmont.
This year’s Stompede (May 31-June 4) is the first stop on the association’s circuit. The highest selling tarp went to Garry Thiel (Nightcap Industies/Urban Underground).
Total sales for the Stompede was $60,050 and average tarp sale was $1,876.
The Teepee Creek Stampede is July 13-16.
Jack Stott, who won at the Stampede last year, had the highest selling tarp, which went to Wilmar Drywall.
Stampede tarp sales totalled $44,950 with the average tarp sale being $1,404.
There are 32 drivers this year: Lee Adamson, Curtis Hogg, Keith Wood, Cole Adamson, Louis Johner, Brian Cardinal, Kolton Thiel, Garry Thiel, Neil Salmond, Curtis Wood, Lanny Wood, Wade Salmond, Calvin Rowan, Linda Shippelt-Hubl, Chris Arcand, Larry Arcand, Marvin Hubl, Barrie Lanktree, Herb Arcand, Gary Salmond, Kevin Desjarlais, Preston Faithful, Philip Arcand, Wacey Hogg, Rene Salmond, Albert Whiskeyjack, Brian L’Henaff, Junior Whiskeyjack, Robin Arcand, John McRae, Ryan Arcand and Colby Arcand.
For more information, visit: www.allprochuckwagon.com
By SVJETLANA MLINAREVIC
There is nothing more enjoyable for adults than watching children play the role of an adult, as well, there is nothing more exciting for a child than taking on the role of a grown-up. This was the case at this year’s Peace Country Classic Agri-Show children’s auction and workshop, said Agri-Show president Sonja Raven.
“I think they like it because they’re getting a chance to try something that’s grown-up, but for stuff they can relate to. They’re bidding on stuff they would want and they get a feel of, ‘I’ve seen Dad or I’ve seen Mom bid for stuff – look at me, I can do the same thing.’
“Everybody is always fascinated with that auctioneer patter and to learn what the tricks are to that, it’s like, ‘Oooh, I’ve got a really cool skill that most of my friends won’t have.’ I think it’s the novelty and it’s just exciting! You look at those kids and it’s just awesome.”
Despite the freezing temperatures this year, Raven said the show went exceptionally well with vendor slots selling out both indoors and outdoors.
“Despite the horribly cold weather, that made it a little challenging for our outdoor exhibitors, but they still said it was good and in speaking with a number of vendors inside, they were really pleased with it. They said there was really good traffic and they were really happy they came.”
As for attendees, Raven said the overall impression was that there were more people visiting the show this year than last. She attributed the rise in attendance to a diversity in programming.
“People are starting to realize that it’s not just a farmer show. It’s an agriculture show, but there’s things for everybody, there’s stuff for whoever wants to be kicking the tires can kick the tires and the rest of the family can (do what they want). There’s stuff for kids, there’s stuff for spouses. I think it’s that diversity (that makes it popular) and the kids auction was a huge success.”
As for urbanites coming out to the show, Raven said there was strong showing of city folk, but rural visitors still comprised the majority of attendees. First and foremost the event is an agriculture show which means the emphasis will be on the rural components, but she said there are components that might be interesting to urbanites such as the petting zoo, the horse show, the bull sale, and agricultural information sessions.
One of the draws of the Agri-Show is the bull sale which draws both urban and rural watchers. Out of 75 bulls sold, this year’s top bull, a Simmental, went for $15,500, from Willow Creek Farms; the average bid in the auction was $6,776.
Willow Creek’s top selling bull was followed by a JayDawn Farms’ Simmental for $15,000 and a Charolais for $10,000. The two farms have been selling their bulls at the Agri-Show for 14 years.
“It was very successful with lots of probably record number of bidders registered. It was very good,” said JayDawn Farms owner Jason McQuaig, attributing the success of the sale to the cattle industry being in an upswing, good advertising, a good payment plan, discounts, and extensive delivery service.
“We stand behind our product and guarantee our product, which is very, very important and local support is outstanding that we get from all our neighbours and people from the north.”
Raven said planning for next year will begin once the board has a chance to meet in the next couple of weeks.
“I think it’ll be a really good, fruitful discussion. We’re very pleased with how it went this year,” she said.
The Grande Prairie Stompede will soon be celebrating a very special milestone and plans for the event are already underway.
Stompede president Terri Ellen Sudnik updated County of Grande Prairie council on this past year’s event and plans for the 40th anniversary coming up next year.
“Our committee is going through a visioning process right now to determine that and so far the consensus is, we’re here to celebrate the last 40 years and how and who has helped to bring us to the point where we are today,” she said. “We’ve had about a million people come through the gates and we’ve had tons of people that are key, instrumental pieces of why Stompede has existed this long and we’re going to be in the community, engaging with them and looking for input and developing a really great celebration come 2017.”
The Stompede was established in 1977 and was originally held in the City of Grande Prairie before moving out to Evergreen Park in 1982.
“I’ve been involved since pretty well the beginning of the rodeo side. I’ve seen some huge changes but from the cowboy point of view, it is on the calendar. We are one of the top 10 rodeos in Alberta and B.C. and I just want to see it grow from there,” said Ross Mather, board member.
“We’ve come a long way, we’ve made a lot of improvements. We’ve had world champions come the last couple of years on a steady basis and it’s the place to be.”
Sudnik noted the event has given back about $1 million in improvements to Evergreen Park over the years.
“... We’ve done everything from infrastructure to electrical panels to the installation of washrooms, development of the campground, track maintenance, the list goes on,” she said. “We’re very proud and happy to contribute back into a venue that is our home... We’ve also contributed over the last five years $250,000 to user groups, whether it’s baseball, minor hockey, whether it’s soccer and even 4H.”
This year’s event saw about a 30% revenue loss, a total of about $262,000.
“No different than any other business in the region, we saw a decrease, a 30% decrease in revenue come in to Stompede, particularly in the area of disposable income... you know that flex cash that people have,” said Sudnik. “That puts us into an area where we’re looking at focusing to restructure our current procedures, budgeting process to ensure that going into our 40th year, it is a celebration and we’re celebrating what Stompede has developed into over the last 40 years but also, planning on what it looks like for the next 40 years.”
Despite the revenue loss, Sudnik said they’re focused on developing a program for all businesses and community partners to allow for everyone to get engaged with Stompede and pitch in where they can. It’s going to take a lot of hard work but Sudnik said they’re ready for it.
The 40th anniversary event runs May 31 to June 4, 2017.
The Growing the North conference at the ENTREC Centre over the past few days has been highly successful according to Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Pearcy.
"The conference is always well received by the community," he said. "Yesterday, we had topped out at 475 attendees at the conference, so we're quite thrilled about that and that people are enjoying and listening."
Some of the highlights for Pearcy at the conference were speeches provided by tech companies.
"I'm a techie so Mark Saltzman is definitely one of my favourite speakers. Also, the Stantec presentation - talking about communities and the development and moving of people and creating an environment within our community - were two of the big ones for me," he said.
Saltzman discussed staying competitive and productive with technology.
Perhaps one of the most interesting speakers at the conference was Peter Ladner, author of the Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities.
Ladner discussed how the way Western cultures grow food today has changed so much and with an ever increasing global population, the world's farmer will have to increase production by 70% in order to meet demand by 2050.
"The world's food system is in crisis," he said.
And while the average age of farmers has increased to about 55 years old, Ladner noted young people and city dwellers, especially women, are building urban farms and gardens.
He also mentioned with every degree increase in temperature, crop production globally falls by about 10%, although in northern Alberta it might increase because of a more favourable climate.
The author and former Vancouver city councillor noted that 40% of the food produced is thrown out either by the producer because it doesn't meet a certain standard for size or shape, by the distributor as product that hasn't been bought, or by the consumer as household waste.
In light of these findings and the growing awareness of consumers, Ladner said the way people consume, treat, and regard food has changed with a growing movement towards the 100-mile diet and urban community gardens.
"As people say, 'I want to get more control over the food that I eat. I want to learn more about the food that I eat. I want to have some knowledge of how my food comes to me.' The result is people are building these gardens," said Ladner, noting an increase of farmer's markets and direct to seller markets by farmers.
Businesses have responded to this growing consumer awareness by advertising and selling local product, which can in turn increase sales by 40%, according to a quote Ladner attributed to Galen Weston of Loblaws.
Ladner said about 88% of consumers buy local because they want to support local producers.
The movement has also prompted local governments to respond by providing incentives, such as tax breaks to developers and residents who grow urban gardens and farms, reclamation of brownfield sites, and other things.
"The most popular thing that governments do to make all this happen is to help the farmers markets get established, get rid some of the red tape in the farmer's markets...Also, allowing people to buy and sell produce with their neighbours without licences and inspectors, and allowing people to grow on rooftops," he said.
As for next year's conference, Pearcy said the chamber will begin planning in about a month and deciding on who the speakers will be and he encourages anyone with a suggestion to contact the chamber office.
The Peace Country Classic Agri Show rolled into Evergreen Park over the weekend for yet another successful year.
The event featured everything agriculture from machinery, to 4H events, horse programs and a bull sale. Show president Ross Mathers said, while they don't have any final numbers, he expects that the number of visitors was in the 18,000 range.
"We thought it was good," he said. "We had a few more people over into the horse building and stayed for a little longer and the bull sale was right full as usual."
Mathers said the average price for a bull went for around $6,500, which would put the sale on par with last year's average, 'which is strong' he added.
Mathers said in addition to several new vendors, there was also new activities for people to check out.
"We had two or three more events. We had a kids farm auction, you might say, where they donated food to the food bank and ATB (Financial) in turn gave them funny money for the dollar's worth so for every five dollars worth of food, they got $500 worth of funny money and then we auctioned off some kids toys and toy tractors and there was a wagon and bicycles and it went really, really well," he said. "There were a few disappointed kids when they got to the limit of their money and their mom and dad had to tell them they were out but that's what this was all about, a little bit of an experience."
Mathers said a large horse program was also added for this year which started at 10 a.m. and went all three days until 5 p.m.
"It attracted a lot of people. There was all various disciplines of the horse industry there and we... increased our Craft Corner. We had quite a few exhibitors in the Craft Corner and they feel they all did really well," he said.
Popular in farming this year were air seeding and zero till options.
"We had a few more vendors selling haying equipment like how to protect your bales, wrapping them and things like that - bale handlers, they were quite popular. Solar watering seems to be very interesting, a lot of people are really in to that kind of stuff, like heating their water by solar (energy)," he said. "Lots of different grain products, fertilizer products, things like that."
The local 4H groups also had a good time.
"They had a good turn out. They had I think about 18 heifers and steers and about 25 sheep. It went really well," said Mathers. "Everybody had a lot of fun. They had a little 4H judging show of horses. Glenn Stewart, one of our horse demo guys, he supplied four nice horses and critiqued their judging on the horsemanship so it went really well. And the petting zoo was a real hit."
The Agri Show is one of the larger fundraisers for Evergreen Park and the show president said he expects the show raised between $50,000 to $60,000.
"I'd like to thank Evergreen Park and our committee. We worked hard and it went really well," he said.
The province has ponied up to keep Alberta’s horse racing industry on track.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci announced the decade-long deal Saturday at Century Downs race track north of Calgary, which will replace the current pact set to expire.
“This new 10-year commitment will continue to support an important economic and cultural piece of rural Alberta and the agricultural sector,” Ceci said.
Horse Racing Alberta (HRA) will receive a cut of the net revenue from slot machines at the province’s four racing entertainment centres.
However, while the industry previously received just shy of 52% of those gaming revenues, the new deal see it begin at 50% this year and gradually shrink to 40% in 2018.
“It’s important that we keep an industry going, but it’s also important that it be affordable to Albertans, and that’s what this new agreement does,” said Ceci.
Rick LeLacheur, chair of the HRA, said even with waning funds the industry will make due, noting the significance of the deal for horse racing in Alberta.
“We’ll deal with the money we have available,” he said.
“I know in government 10 years is a long time for an agreement. But the minister really recognized how important a long-term agreement was to the industry, particularly the breeding industry.
“It just doesn’t happen overnight.”
That sentiment was echoed by stable owner Norm Castiglione.
“When you’re breeding horses, it’s a two-to-four year process each time you breed a horse,” he said.
“By the time you get a horse to the racetrack, it’s three years after you’ve decided to breed it.
“If you don’t have those longer agreements, it makes no sense to put the money into that part of racing.”
Ceci portrayed the deal as an effort to preserve both rural culture and jobs during a difficult economic period.
“As a government, we recognize the importance of horse racing not only from a cultural perspective, but also as a source of livelihood for many Albertans,” Ceci said, adding that 1,600 Albertans are directly employed by the sector, with an additional 7,000 “touched by racing in some way.”
The announcement comes a month after Edmonton’s Northlands race track announced it would close after this season.
LeLacheur pointed out that Northlands CEO Tim Reid is on the HRA board and was aware of the negotiations with the province.
Ceci said he didn’t want to speculate on Northlands’ plans.