Calgary Stampede Day One Rodeo & Chucks Roundup


There’s no sense being cautious when you’ve got a chance to ride for $100,000 at the Calgary Stampede. So on opening day of the 2017 edition of the $2 million dollar rodeo, the winners let it all hang out.

Saddle bronc rider Layton Green had an inside track through. As luck would have it, the young talent from Meeting Creek was matched up with the great horse called Stampede Warrior – the same one he rode this Monday at the Ponoka Stampede. There they’d combined for 87.25 points, and wound up second overall, for a pile of cash. But this time was even better, as the outstanding bay mare leapt high in the air and let Green go to work, for 91.50 big points, and the $5,500 first place payday.

Green was ecstatic when he found out he’d get another chance with her.

“That’s the third time I’ve been on that horse, and honestly, I’ve had a different trip on her every time,” said Green. “I knew after Ponoka I felt like I could’ve rode her a little bit better, and it felt even better today.”

“She rolled out of there today, and got it on right there. It was a great feeling, one of the best feeling rides ever. There’s not very many that feel that good, that jump that high in the air, and hang there for you. That’s what bronc riding’s about, and when you get the ones that feel like that, nothing in the world beats it,” he grinned.

Green is coming off the best Cowboy Christmas he’s had in his career, and 23-year-old second generation rodeo cowboy is riding the best he ever has in his four-year pro career.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world, and I’ve been drawing good, and riding good. When you’re hot, it’s hard to beat that. I think I’m a little more consistent now and have a few little tricks I’ve figured out to do for myself, and it’s like they’re starting to pay off.”

Topping Pool A competitors in the bareback riding was Texan Richmond Champion, making his fourth appearance at the Stampede. He got his motor running early by accepting the invitation to ride in the Stampede parade.

“I was really glad I did. It was an awesome experience (to see) that many people come out to support this,” he stated.

Champion was grinning about the opportunity to do an eight second dance with the horse Twin Cherry in the rodeo again, the fifth time the two have met in his career.

“She’s my old girlfriend,” he chuckled. “She’s a pain in the butt in the box, and she’ll give you a chance, but she’ll throw dirt in your face just as fast.”

“She tried to buck me off today but I got lucky, and she jumped back underneath me and gave me the opportunity to catch up, and make the bareback ride I was hoping to. You’ve gotta risk it for the biscuit, I guess!”

“All reserve goes out the window here. It doesn’t pay to hold back. You didn’t come here to win second.”

Champion was happy to claim his first ever bronze statue as a day winner, along with the $5,500.

Ryan Jarrett knows what it’s like to win the big cheque at the Stampede, and, as the speed record holder in the tie-down roping (6.3 seconds), he knows how to be fast here.

He came out and bundled up a little black calf in just 7.1 seconds Friday afternoon, worth $5,500, and a key step to him returning for Showdown Sunday out of Pool A.

“I like Calgary, it’s been good to me,” said the Oklahoma cowboy. “I enjoy coming here and roping. I’ve said it before, just hustle, hustle, hustle.”

Jarrett enjoys the chance to catch his breath and soak up the Calgary atmosphere after his busy fourth of July rodeo run. He even got up early to ride in the Stampede parade as well.

“It was crazy. It’s amazing how many people come out to watch the parade.”

This year, Jarrett is using his six-year-old rope horse Snoopy, and while Jarrett’s a veteran in Calgary, this was Snoopy’s first trip to the Stampede.

“I trained him myself. I’ve been monkeying with him for about two years, and I’m kind of proud of him. It’s a real big gamble, but I just kind of beared down and did it. It worked out. Maybe he’ll stay good the rest of the time.”

Cochrane steer wrestler Tanner Milan gave his good horse Smoke a few days off, and it paid $5500 when the two got their steer turned over in 4.2 seconds, fastest of the day.

“I knew the steer left good, and I took a pretty aggressive start, and I caught up really good. He was just an excellent steer on the ground,” said the two-time Canadian champion.

“It’s a great way to start off the Stampede.”

It’s not the first time he’s won the opening day of his Pool, but Milan has yet to win the big prize at the end.

Utah’s Kimmie Wall and her homegrown mare Foxy rounded the barrel racing pattern in 17.35 seconds to take the first place prize money of $5,500 in her event.

“I just really want to commend the Calgary Stampede,” said Wall. “They worked really hard on the ground this year, and we really appreciate it. The ground was amazing.”

“She nailed the first barrel this year, and that’s where I could never get my first last year.”

The best of the bull rides came from a Stampede newcomer, Jess Lockwood from Volberg, Montana. He was 87.5 points on a bull called Goose Bumps.

“It’s the coolest thing ever to step out onto that chute and see this whole crowd. It’s just incredible,” marveled the 19-year-old. “My aunt Lisa Lockhart has competed here forever. She’s done well here, and she’ll be up here in Pool B. It’s going to be the coolest thing ever.”

“I’ve seen pictures of this place, but to soak it in, in person …well, it’s the Calgary Stampede, the one and only.”

Lockwood jumps out to the lead in Pool A for bull riding with his $5,500.

Hot temperatures, hot action on day one of the Calgary Stampede Rodeo 

July 08, 2017

Calgary – The temperatures were sizzling and so were the performances in the opening round of action at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. With more than $2 million up for grabs during the ten days of competition, contestants know they need momentum on their side.

Canadian saddle bronc rider Layton Green, from Meeting Creek, AB, claimed the $5500 paycheque for a spectacular 91.5 point ride on Calgary horse Stampede Warrior. It was the second time the two had met in five days.

“She rolled out of there today, and got it on right there,” said Green. “It was a great feeling, one of the best feeling rides ever. There’s not very many that feel that good, that jump that high in the air, and hang there for you. That’s what bronc riding’s about, and when you get the ones that feel like that, nothing in the world beats it,” he grinned. The 23-year-old had marked 87.25 points on the same horse, to win second overall at the Ponoka Stampede on Monday.

Topping Pool A competitors in the bareback riding was Texan Richmond Champion, making his 4th appearance at the Stampede. He was 89 points on Calgary Stampede horse, Twin Cherry.

“She tried to buck me off today but I got lucky, and she jumped back underneath me and gave me the opportunity to catch up, and make the bareback ride I was hoping to. You’ve gotta risk it for the biscuit, I guess!” said Champion, who was happy to claim his first ever bronze statue as a day winner, along with the $5500.

Cochrane steer wrestler Tanner Milan earned $5500 with a 4.2 second run, which was fastest of the day.

“I knew the steer left good, and I took a pretty aggressive start, and I caught up really good. He was just an excellent steer on the ground,” said the two-time Canadian champion. “It’s a great way to start off the Stampede.”

Ryan Jarrett, an Oklahoma cowboy and past Stampede champion, tied a calf in just 7.1 seconds Friday afternoon, getting him a step closer to returning for Showdown Sunday out of Pool A.

Utah’s Kimmie Wall and her homegrown mare Foxy rounded the barrel racing pattern in 17.35 seconds to take the first place prize money of $5500 in her event.

The best of the bull rides came from a Stampede newcomer, Jess Lockwood from Volberg, Montana. He was 87.5 points on a bull called Goose Bumps, to jump out to the lead in Pool A.

About the Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west.  The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned 10-day Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values.  All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.

For more information, please contact:

Kristina Barnes,
Communications Manager
Western Events and Agriculture
Community Engagement & Communications  
Office: 403.261.0382          
Cell: 403.585.4706             

Mark Sutherland tops opening-day action at GMC Rangeland Derby

July 07, 2017

Calgary – The most decorated driver in chuckwagon history is saying goodbye this week. But Friday, in opening-day action at the GMC Rangeland Derby, it was Kelly Sutherland’s son who stole the show. Mark Sutherland, racing in the fourth heat, posted a time of 1:12.31. None of the other 35 drivers could match it and he pocketed $6,000 in day money. His dad – a 12-time Calgary Stampede champion appearing in his 45th and final Calgary Stampede – registered a time of 1:13.76 one heat earlier.

Rounding out the top four and grabbing an early share of $1.15 million in prize money up for grabs, are Chanse Vigen (1:12.33), Chance Bensmiller (1:12.36), and Chad Harden (1:12.50). Defending champion Kirk Sutherland rattled home in 1:12.67. Making their Rangeland Derby debuts, Dustin Gorst clocked in at 1:13.69, while Cody Ridsdale finished in 1:14.25. Racing continues Saturday at 7:45 p.m. The Stampede concludes July 17 with the Dash for Cash, the championship heat worth $100,000 to the victor.

Rookie driver’s dreams come true on Calgary Stampede track
should you wish to reprint this article, please credit Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Stampede

To his credit, the logs stayed on the truck, the truck stayed on the road. And he stayed somewhat coherent. But it wasn’t easy. After all, it’s not every day you get a call informing you that a life-long dream has been realized. But there was Dustin Gorst, going about his work day in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan last fall when his phone began to buzz. Sure, he’d been hoping. Sure, he’d had a hunch.
But he was itching for official word. This was it.

It was a call from the Calgary Stampede, providing the blockbuster bulletin, telling Gorst that he was one of 36 chuckwagon drivers invited to the 2017 GMC Rangeland Derby. For Gorst – and fellow newbie Cody Ridsdale – this is scrapbook territory.

“I was so excited I could hardly drive – I was sweating,” he says with a laugh. “I just thanked her. She started talking about barn stalls and stuff, and I said, ‘Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you park me in the river. I’m going. I’m happy.

“I’ve arrived – that’s the perfect word for it. I’ve been waiting for this week my whole life. I’m very excited.” A superb outrider – he was named the Stampede’s outstanding outrider for the second time in 2014 – Gorst nevertheless had a notion to get himself into the wagon box. Despite being the grandson of Art, the son of Gary, the younger brother of Logan – all of whom are drivers of note, all of whom have competed at the Stampede – he was determined to do it his way.

“I wanted to stand on my own two feet, you know what I mean?” says Gorst. “I didn’t want to have to go in my dad’s liner. I didn’t want to have to use my dad’s horses, use my dad’s wagon, use my dad’s one-ton. I wanted to own an acreage. I wanted to own all the horses myself.” Plan set, Gorst refused to rush.
He started by buying 40 acres 10 minutes south of Meadow Lake. He built corrals exactly the way he wanted them. Then – and only then – did he think about filling his barn.

“I’d say I’m very proud,” says Gorst, 31. “I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted it to be me. That’s why (I got) the late start, because I wanted to be in control.”

And, impressively, he earned his way to Calgary in smart fashion – after only three years of driving.
That said, Gorst did have to overcome skeptics, who, for whatever reason, were doubting him and doubting chuckwagons. But he has no time for negativity.

“There’s always the naysayers,” Gorst says, “but I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It frustrates me when people are down on the sport … (because) that’s the last thing on my mind. I love the sport. I get to call myself a chuckwagon driver. I’m getting paid to be here this week. I’m here to stay, personally.”

Gorst already knows that outriding here is an amazing experience. But it’s not the nightly hot seat that driving is. Taking hold of those reins piles up the pressure – and the potential for glory.
“A very different vibe, yeah,” says Gorst. “As a driver, you’re actually the event. As an outrider you’re part of it, but you’re always the side (attraction).

“But as a driver? You’re it. And it’s finally my name up there.” Wisely, though, Gorst shies away from bold predictions. “I’ve watched many rookies come into the Calgary Stampede and they were going to tear it apart and beat everybody,” he says, shaking his head. “I have a full understanding that I’m with the best 35 best wagon drivers there are and I am a rookie. I want to go have fun. I want to be competitive on a nightly basis.”



Want to know how old a horse is in human years? Multiply his age by 4.3.

Want to make a bad horse perform better? Get him to the dentist.

Want to learn how to properly sit in a chuckwagon?

How to hold the reins? How to steer?

How to win races?

When Rick Fraser throws open his barn doors, this is apparently the result – a generous outpouring of tidbits and tall tales, all charmingly delivered.

Which is what Brian Smith quickly discovered.

Brian, 16, and his family – parents Randy and Jeanie Maie; brother Bradly, 14; sister Brandi, 12 – travelled from their home in rural Nova Scotia to visit the Calgary Stampede grounds, thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.


Arriving in town Monday – and promptly white-hatted at the airport – Smith came bearing good news. He was recently given a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with lymphoma cancer 18 months ago.

It marked the start of an unforgettable trip, which included a jaunt to Banff.

Saturday morning for more than an hour, the Smith clan got the royal treatment from Fraser and his wife Sue.

Right off the bat, the veteran driver told Brian to perch in the wagon box, to take the reins. He patiently showed the kid the proper technique.

Fraser then led the family through his barn, showing them all of the animals and peppering the tour with stories – about horses that fall asleep then topple over, about an old horse of his that enjoyed being finger-scratched IN the ear, about one horse he calls “the laziest creature in the barn.”

It was quite a show.

Later, Fraser explains his attitude.

“The No. 1 thing, make people feel welcome wherever you are. These 10 days … everyone wants a piece of you all the time. You just have to smile, take your moment, be happy with that.”

Fraser also gave the Smiths a rundown of his family tree, which, as chuckwagon aficionados know, is loaded with household names such as Dallas Dorchester and Dave Lewis. He even offered a history lesson on the sport, including the evolution of wagon dimensions and barrel composition.


When Leo Pretty Young Man, of the Siksika Nation, happened to wander by, Fraser dragged over Brian for an introduction.

The morning was as fascinating as it was comprehensive.

And when Fraser didn’t know something? Such as when Randy said he’d heard there was a pressure point on a horse’s chest that, if pushed, could make it back up. He immediately sought someone who would. (Answer: yes.)

“Young people are the future of our country,” says Fraser, a GMC Rangeland Derby mainstay and a World Professional Chuckwagon Association pillar. “If we don’t take time for them, they’re not going to learn to take time for the next ones. I remember when I was younger, it was always special when an older person would take time to talk to you, even if it’s for a few minutes. My uncle Dallas always had time for us.”

Wrapping up, Fraser contacted Stampede staff to make sure the Smiths would be able to watch Saturday evening’s races from the rails, not the grandstands, just to get a better sense of the power and speed.

Finally, he signed posters for the family.

As a field trip, this was tough to top.

“Very nice,” says Brian. “It was something else I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the wish foundation.”

For Brian, a bit of a horseman himself, a trip to, say, Disneyland was not appealing.

“My uncle suggested (going to the Stampede) and told me to look into it, ‘It might be down your alley,’ ” say Brian. “I looked into it and said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

The Smiths’ presence in the barns overlapped with another group’s – friends of the Frasers from their home town of Wetaskiwin, accompanied by a batch of curious exchange students.

This particular crew, Sue was leading around.

“It is important to us,” says Sue, who blogs daily – – about life on the chuckwagon circuit. “Because without the fans and the friends and the family, we wouldn’t be doing it. It’s good to get the people out and to see what we do. It’s not just the race on the track – that’s only about a minute long. People get to come back here and see how it all comes together. The chores, the horses.”

At every Stampede, however, Fraser and Sue find time for a trip over to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. They round up a handful of drivers, maybe an outrider or two, and head over to cheer up the patients.

Without fuss – there is never a press release – they’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years.

“We don’t go for fanfare,” says Fraser, 57. “We go for the kids. We don’t need the rah-rah-rah.”

Tuesday morning, they plan to make their visit.

“It brightens their day,” says Sue, “and it brightens ours moreso. It’s very touching. It’s so hard to describe. We come out of there with so much. The kids really enjoy it, but we come away with even more.”

First-day Calgary Stampede rodeo stars get call to morning parade

More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 8, 2017 | Last Updated: July 8, 2017 11:10 AM MDT

Ryan Jarrett of Comanche, OK, wins the days tie-down roping at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary on Friday July 7, 2017. Leah Hennel/Postmedia Stampede2017 leah Hennel, Leah Hennel/Postmedia LEAH HENNEL / LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA


A trio of first-day winners at the Calgary Stampede rodeo had early morning wake-up calls even though they weren’t slated to compete until later in the afternoon.

Tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett as well as bareback and saddle-bronc riders Richie Champion and Layton Green were all among a group of rodeo competitors who rode in the Calgary Stampede parade on Friday morning.

“They contacted me about riding in it this year, so I did,” said Jarrett, of Comanche, Okla., who posted the fastest time of 7.1 seconds in the first go-round of tie-down roping event to win the top day-money prize of $5,500. “We got up about 6 a.m. and started that deal. It was crazy. It’s amazing how many people come out and watch the parade.”

It’s safe to say that Jarrett enjoys competing at the Stampede considering he won the tie-down roping title in 2009 before returning the next year and setting the arena record of 6.3 seconds.

“I like Calgary,” Jarrett said. “It’s been good to me. I enjoy coming here and roping.”

Although it’s Champion’s fourth-straight year competing in Calgary, it was his first time riding on horseback through the streets of downtown past thousands of parade goers.

“It’s early in the morning, but it’s worth the time,” said Champion, of Dublin, Texas, who posted a score of 89 atop Twin Cherry to edge out Airdrie’s Jake Vold (87 on Wild Child) for top spot. “I was really glad I did. It was an awesome experience for that many people to come out to support this. We’re excited for our own reasons getting to ride here, but seeing the community coming out and the support that’s behind it makes it even more special and exciting.”

After riding in the parade for two hours, Champion was raring for the bareback event to get started.

“I was looking forward to Twin Cherry by the time I was done with it,” said Champion, whose horse during the parade was a bit fidgety. “What can you expect? That many fireworks and people and noise, you’re going to have to work a little to keep him in line.”

After waving to parade-goers in the morning, Green later triumphantly pumped his fist to the crowd after an impressive ride of 91.5 points aboard Stampede Warrior.

“I was excited,” said Green, who hails from Meeting Creek, Alta. “I was happy to have her. If I could have picked one out of that pen, that was the one I would have picked, so I was ecstatic.”

This is Green’s second time competing at the Stampede, and it was his first parade experience.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Green, who further summed up his Stampede rodeo experience by saying: “If this one doesn’t get your blood pumping, I don’t think any of them will. It’s an awesome experience and a great atmosphere around here.”

Meanwhile, Day 1 rodeo champ Jess Lockwood enjoyed getting to sleep in prior to his Stampede rodeo debut.

“I got some beauty rest before,” said Lockwood, of Volberg, Mont., who was happy he didn’t have to wake up early for the parade. “I’m 19-years-old. I’m a kid that’ll sleep in until 2 in the afternoon if you let him.”


Tanner Milan would like nothing more than to equal his brother Straws accomplishment of winning the steer wrestling championship at the Calgary Stampede.

“I’ve dreamed about the Calgary Stampede ever since I was a little kid playing around in the yard,” said the Cochrane resident, who kicked off the 2017 competition Friday by posting the afternoon’s fastest time of 4.2 seconds. “It’s just lots of family, lots of support around here. I look forward to coming in here every year.”

While Straws won the $100,000 top prize in 2011, Tanner’s best showing was back in 2015 when he finished third.

“My brother’s won it before, though,” Milan said. “I’ve got to win ‘er here this year, so he doesn’t have all the bragging rights around the house. I’ve just got to keep drawing good and just keep making solid runs.”


An early morning practice session paid off for Kimmie Wall and her horse, Foxy, on Friday.

Aboard Foxy, Wall set the pace on the opening afternoon of ladies barrel racing action with a time of 17.35 seconds.

“She nailed the first barrel,” said Wall, of Roosevelt, Utah, who noted that Foxy benefited from an early look at the course set-up. “I let her feel the ground and let her see where that first barrel was.”

Although Wall and Foxy qualified for Championship Sunday at the Stampede last year, they weren’t able to advance to the final-four showdown for the big prize money.

“I did make it through the wild card into the finals last year,” said Wall. “I had a blast. It was so much fun.”


Winning at Calgary Stampede rodeo in the blood for bull rider Jess Lockwood

More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 8, 2017 | Last Updated: July 8, 2017 10:55 AM MDT

Montana cowboy Jess Lockwood rides Goose Bumps to a score of 87.50 in the bull riding event during the Calgary Stampede rodeo. AL CHAREST / POSTMEDIA


Bull rider Jess Lockwood found out firsthand what it’s like to compete at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday.

For years, he had heard stories about the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth from his aunt, Lisa Lockhart, who won the ladies barrel racing championship title in 2015.

“Me and her talk so regularly, every day or every other day,” said Lockwood, 19, who made the trip up north to Calgary from his hometown of Volberg, Mont. “She’s had world-title barrel-racing runs. She’s been in tough situations, and she handles the pressure so well.

“I look to her for advice a lot because she’s such a great athlete. She said, ‘Just do what you know how to do and just soak it in, and it’s going to be awesome’.”

Lockwood heeded his aunt’s advice to perfection Friday as he posted a score of 87.5 points atop Goose Bumps to win the top day-money prize of $5,500 as well as a shiny new bronze trophy.

“This is one of a kind,” he said with the trophy in his hands. “This is the coolest thing ever.”

Garrett Smith, of Rexburg, Idaho, finished second and won $4,500 Friday thanks to an 86.5-point ride aboard Night Moves, while Ryan Dirteater, of Hulbert, Okla., locked up third spot and $3,500 by posting a score of 85 atop Lone Butte.

Although Dakota Buttar took a hard fall after being bucked off Wyoming Storm, Lockwood said he expects that the cowboy from Kindersley, Sask., will bounce back.

“He’s good,” said Lockwood. “We’re pretty tough, we like to think. We go through this pretty often. If you have any doubts that you’re going to get hurt, then you may as well stay at home. As soon as you start thinking things will go bad, they’re going to go really bad.”

Lockwood also received some advice from a fellow bull rider once he found out that he was going to ride Goose Bumps.

“One of my good buddies, Stetson Lawrence, actually had him here last year,” Lockwood said. “I gave him a call this morning, and he said, ‘He’s going to fit you just right, buddy,’ and luckily he did.”

The only hiccup Lockwood experienced Friday was when he took his victory lap aboard a less-than-cooperative horse around the infield.

“That horse, I don’t think he liked my bull riding spurs,” said Lockwood. “I was more nervous when he started bucking than when the bull did.

“I’m afraid of bucking horses, so when that thing started bucking, I was pretty nervous. That scared me even more because I thought he was going to flip over on me. I did not like that all. Maybe I’ll take off my spurs next victory lap, if I get one.”

Lockwood is definitely hoping to have more victory laps, especially considering that his mom, Angela, and aunt Lisa are arriving in Calgary soon.

“I don’t think they’ll make the bull riding (on Saturday), but they’ll be here the next couple days,” said Lockwood, who plans to stay in Calgary to watch his aunt compete in Pool B of the ladies barrel racing competition from Tuesday to Friday.

Although Lockhart described the experience of competing at the Stampede to him, Lockwood was a bit taken aback before his inaugural ride.

“I stepped out on them shoots and looked at this place, and I was in awe,” said Lockwood, who currently sits fourth in the Professional Bull Riders standings. “The PBR world finals is about as big as it gets for bull riding, but for outdoor events, this is on a level of its own.”

While Lockwood’s mom and aunt will be in Calgary shortly to cheer him on, his dad, Ed, stayed behind in Montana.

“My little brother (Jake) rides bulls as well, and he’s 16, so Dad said, ‘I’ll just stay at home with the little brother and help him’,’ explained Lockwood, while noting his dad previously competed at the Stampede as a saddle bronc rider.

The day after the Stampede, Lockwood will head out on a flight to Gillette, Wyo., to watch his younger brother compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo.

“He won our state finals,” Lockwood said. “I get there the day before he rides, so it worked out good.”

Chuckwagon driver Kirk Sutherland shooting for repeat at Rangeland Derby

More from Wes Gilbertson

Published on: July 8, 2017 | Last Updated: July 8, 2017 9:30 AM MDT

Nearly a year later, this mystery remains unsolved. 

If you fancy yourself a sleuth, here are the facts …

Kirk Sutherland delivered the championship run last summer at the Calgary Stampede’s Rangeland Derby, a long-overdue accomplishment for the veteran chuckwagon driver from Grande Prairie.  

His son, Mitch, was second across the finish line in that decisive dash. 

“My granddaughter (Emerson), when she was with me, she was crying. She couldn’t stop crying,” Kirk Sutherland recalled. “And I didn’t know if she was crying because I won or crying because her dad lost.

“She still hasn’t told me.”

With the 2017 Rangeland Derby now underway, we’ll spare Emerson the interrogation, file this away as a cold case and agree it was special night for both father and son. 

After four decades in the sport, Kirk finally crossed the biggie off his wish-list, collecting the shiny bronze and the $100,000 cheque at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth in his fourth appearance in the championship heat. He actually peeled out of Calgary with a hat-trick of major honours, also claiming the Richard Cosgrave Memorial Award as the aggregate winner and the Calgary Stampede Safety Award thanks to a 10-day cruise without a single penalty.

Mitch, meanwhile, proved to the crowd in Cowtown that he’s capable of running with the big boys, qualifying for his first six-figure showdown and finishing just 1.06 seconds in the rear-view.

“I think the win was easier to fathom than to actually sit down and see the race a couple of times (on video) with my son within striking distance there,” Kirk said. “That’s what made it so special. I mean, it was special to win it, but it was just that much better that he was right there with me.

“That just made it so special — it sure did.”

This promises to be another special stop in Calgary for one of the famed families in this business. 

At 65, chuckwagon legend Kelly Sutherland will retire after this season, meaning these will be his final spins at Stampede Park. With a record dozen Rangeland Derby titles on his resume, The King deserves a stirring send-off. 

His younger brother, 60-year-old Kirk, arrived as the reigning champ and the rig that everybody is chasing.

Kirk, whose wagon tarp is being sponsored by Command Fishing & Pipe Recovery Ltd., finished his business Friday in 1:12:67 on the scorching first night of the 2017 Rangeland Derby, while Kelly (Tervita/Air Canada) completed his latest lap of the Half Mile of Hell in 1:13.76.

“There’s some outside pressures and expectations. Of course, everybody is watching,” Kirk admitted prior to Friday’s races. “Even the competitors, they know now, ‘That guy is going to be one of the ones to beat.’ It’s just a little more pressure, but that’s good. It makes your job a little more interesting.”

Kirk Sutherland has had mixed results this summer as he tries to mix a few up-and-comers into his barn, but a 10-day hot streak in Calgary can turn a so-so season into an unforgettable campaign in the blink of an eye.

“It brings back some good memories — picks a guy’s spirits up,” Sutherland said of his return to Stampede Park. “You have to think back to all the work you put in it, and that’s the reward. You continue on, and you try to get another one, but there’s nothing like the first one. Nothing compares to the first one.”


Mark Sutherland (Cowboys Casino Posse) upstaged his father Kelly and uncle Kirk on opening night, bursting off Barrel 3 in the fourth heat and topping the day-money charts with a blistering run of 1:12:31. Chanse Vigen (Qualico Communities) set an impressive pace in the first race of the evening and wound up second in 1:12:33, while Chance Bensmiller (Knoxvilles Tavern) is also off to a swell start after stopping the clock in 1:12:36 … Vern Nolin (Dentons Canada LLP) had a sour ending at the 2016 Rangeland Derby, registering a no-time in the championship heat. He didn’t enjoy a stellar start upon his return, either, dinged for a five-second penalty after knocking over a barrel.

Kelly 'The King' Sutherland looks back at chuckwagon success

More from Wes Gilbertson

Published on: July 5, 2017 | Last Updated: July 8, 2017 9:33 AM MDT

Chuckwagon legend Kelly Sutherland poses for photos at his son Mark's place near Okotoks, on Wednesday July 5, 2017 before heading to his last Calgary Stampede. LEAH HENNEL / LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA

Clear as day, Kelly Sutherland still remembers his first ascent to the stage as champion of the Calgary Stampede’s Rangeland Derby.

In fact, it remains his most cherished moment at Stampede Park, where he’s made more memories and collected more hardware than any other chuckwagon ace.

“In 1974, that’s the year they opened what I call the new plant, which exists today. Prior to that, it was an old wooden grandstand,” Sutherland recalled. “But when they built the new plant and made the leap from six or seven days to 10, I climbed on stage. I was 22 years old. I remember going up there with my wife, and the old Albertan was snapping pictures. I remember looking up in that grandstand, and it was full, and it sat 22,000 on the top end . . .

“I looked up there, a kid from Grande Prairie, and I was traveling with people that had never won it and were in their 50s and 60s. And I just felt blessed to be able to accomplish what I did at that age. That was a special moment for me in time.”

That kid from Grande Prairie turned into The King, the most accomplished chuckwagon driver of all-time.

Now a 12-time champion of the Rangeland Derby — and winner of a dozen world titles, too — the 65-year-old Sutherland will retire at the end of this season. He’ll spin his final laps at Stampede Park over the next 10 days.

“It will be special,” Sutherland said. “It’s the Super Bowl of chuckwagon racing, and having never envisioned myself ever winning it when I started outriding and then to accomplish the wins I have, it’s going to be pretty surreal to make that last trip around that oval at the Calgary Stampede.

“I’m so thankful for the fans and the people and the business-people in my whole life at the Calgary Stampede,” Sutherland added. “I just always felt that when I drove onto the grounds at the Calgary Stampede, after my run in the ’70s when I won it, I just felt I was the guy to beat. And that turned out to be true in most circumstances.

“It was just kind of a feeling I got when I entered those grounds — that I was pretty much unbeatable, and that at the end of the 10-day marathon, I was going to be the last guy standing on the stage.”

He was often right.

Sutherland was Calgary’s champ four times during a five-year stretch from ’74-78, topped the heap again in ’86 and then rattled off five more titles between ’97 and 2002.

He continued to add to his collection with back-to-back victories in the Rangeland Derby dash-for-cash in ’10-11.

“I’ve run against the grandfathers of a lot of the people that I’m competing against now. It’s just quite surreal, when you look back at my whole life of 51 years in the sport,” Sutherland said. “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve won in every decade of my life, from my 20s to my 60s . . . I feel blessed that way. I mean, I don’t know any other sport that you can win in your 20s and win in your 60s. It’s just been a very, very fantastic career that I’ve had.”

There’s no doubt about that.

Kelly Sutherland celebrates his victory in the GMC Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alta., July 17, 2011. (Postmedia file) GRANT BLACK /  CALGARY HERALD

While others have auctioned off their horses and called it a career after their final runs in Calgary, Sutherland plans to complete the World Pro Chuckwagon Association’s summer circuit, with stops in Bonnyville, Strathmore, Dawson Creek and Rocky Mountain House.

The mandatory retirement age for chuckwagon drivers is 65, but that kid from Grande Prairie — his grandkid, 19-year-old Dayton is now steering his own outfit on the WPCA — insists he’s ready to hang up his reins.

“I’m in great physical shape, except my body doesn’t like what I do, which it probably shouldn’t at 65,” Sutherland said. “I continue to work out the last three or four years in the off-season every day, in order to compete at the level I’m trying to compete at. The last couple of years, I said, ‘I’m going to the end, ’til I’m 65, and that’s when I’m going to quit.’

“I know that you start losing strength, you start losing other things. I’m not stupid. I watched other guys in the sport. I think I’m still competing at the level that I can win, and I want to leave competing at that level. I do not want to compete at a level where I have to risk having an accident or risk an accident to myself or to other competitors. I don’t want to be remembered like that. I want to be remembered in history being competitive and fitting in.

“And if I get lucky, I’ll win it again. I know that.”