By Kevin J. Sabo
For Ponoka News
After falling silent for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, chuckwagon action returned to Ponoka by way of the Wild West Chuckwagon Championship.
The event started on Sept. 2, and ran four days, concluding on Sept. 5.
“We were very blessed, the weekend went very well,” said Ponoka Stampede Association president Bruce Harbin. “We had excellent weather throughout the weekend, and it was very well attended by fans.”
A total of 36 competitors from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, 36 professional pony chuckwagons, and a heat of pony chariots all took to the track over the weekend, in front of close to 15,000 spectators.
“Everyone came out and enjoyed themselves,” said Harbin.
“It was great to see everyone together again. The races were fantastic, with big finishes with wagons three-abreast flat-out down the homestretch right in front of the grandstand. The finish line at the end of the homestretch of Ponoka Stampede makes those finishes fantastic.”
The Wild West Chuckwagon Championship was the final stop on the 2021 World Professional Chuckwagon Association 2021 Pro Tour, where Kurt Bensmiller was looking for a fifth career World Chuckwagon Championship.
Unfortunately for Bensmiller, the first day of competition did not go his way, with Vern Nolin navigating his McCaw’s Drilling & Blasting Ltd. Outfit chuckwagon to the fastest time of the night with 1:16.52, coming in 15 one-hundredths of a second over second place, former Ponoka Stampede champion Kirk Sutherland. Evan Salmond came in third, Chanse Vigen came in fourth, and World Points leader Obrey Motowylo came in fifth.
On day two of racing, former Ponoka Stampede champion Kirk Sutherland posted the fastest time of the day, a scant 14-one-hundredths ahead ofBensmiller, with a total time of 1:15.66. Rounding out the top five of the day were Salmond, Nolin, and Dustin Gorst.
Day three of the event was won by Bensmiller, with a blistering time of 1:13.55. Vigen, Sutherland, and Kris Molle, came in two, three, and four, while fifth was tied with Layne MacGillivray and Gorst. With the third day finished, the Championship run was set for day four.
Competing in day four of chuckwagon action, with the highest aggregate runs from the previous three days, were Nolin, Gorst, Salmond and Sutherland. Picking up his second Ponoka Championship in the last three seasons was Nolin.
Nolin was the winner of the $15,000 Dash for Cash on Sept. 5 as well as the the aggregate winner overall for the third consecutive season.
Sutherland came in second, 40-one-hundredths of a second behind Nolin. Salmond came in third, and Gorst finished fourth in the championship round.
Also awarded during the Wild West Chuckwagon Championship was the World Champion title, which was won by Obrey Motowylo, 23 points ahead of Bensmiller.
The four-day event included a tradeshow, a nightly beer garden with live entertainment and two concerts — Chris Buck and Bobby Willis — along with daily kids’ wild pony racing as well as stockdog showdowns, ranch relay races and Junior Jockeys of Flying Cross Ranch racing.
Topping it all off was the Wold West PBR Bull Riding Classic on Saturday night. Saskatchewan cowboy Dakota Buttar was the winner of the night with his 90 point ride on “Norse God.”
“I want to express our gratitude for all those who took in the event, and all those who produced the event,” said Harbin.