The chuckwagon races are run every evening from 7:45 pm. From thhe Opening Friday to the final Sunday evening of the Stampede, and are followed by the Evening Grandstand Showa and Stampede Fireworks.
The races involve 36 teams and drivers (each with 4 outriders) who run in 9 heats with 4 wagons in each heat. The best teams each evening get "day money", which the drivers share with their outriders. On the last day of the Stampede, the last race involves the fastest four teams, with the lowest cumulative time in the previous nights' races, and they race for the really big money! Over the ten days of Stampede, there is over 1.15 million in total prize money awarded.
The drivers lucky enough to race in the Stampede are nominated by their professional groups, as the best in the Canadian racing field and the American reacing field. The
World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) submits 25 drivers to the Calgary, and the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) submits 11 drivers.
Often outriders may ride with several wagons over the course of an evening, and are paid by the race for their work, plus get a portion of the Day Money paid to the fastest teams (regardless of which race they happened to be in) each evening.
The sponsorship/advertising on the tarps for each wagon is paid for by various corporations who bid for the right for their ads to be on the wagons of their chosen drivers. The proceeds of the tarp auction are split 50/50 between the Stampede and the drivers. The Stampede sponsorship amounts can be significant contribution to each team's annual racing budget, even before day money and top prize monies are taken into account.
In the early days of cattle drives on the prairies, the chuckwagons would race each other, fully loaded after dinner was served. This event was first added to the Stampede back in 1923, and the audience and the prize money has grown ever since. By 1949 there was a racing circuit sanction by what is now the World Professional Chuckwagon Association with over ten racing events held each summer in Canada.
The Stampede Grandstand has 17,000 seats, and can accommodate another 8,000 with standing room and in the infield.
In each race the four teams and their four outriders "break camp" after the horn is blown. They toss two tent poles and a barrel (representing a camp stove) into the back of their wagon before they mount their horses and follow their wagons on a "figure eight" around two barrels before circling the race track. The first team across the finish line is usually that race's winner, and all four outriders must also cross within ten seconds of the lead horse. Time penalties are assessed for infractions such as a barrel being knocked over in the figure eight, a tent pole or stove not properly loaded, wagon interference on the track, or one or more outriders crossing the finish line too far behind his chuckwagon.
More Chuckwagon Photos