Cold Lake AG Society hosts First CPCA Chuckwagon Races since 2011

The event, which ran from June 14-16, featured CPCA races starting each night at 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, bringing a wave of excitement and nostalgia to the community.

Shawn Metchewais played a pivotal role in bringing the event back.

"I just kind of had this notion to help the ag society bring professional chuckwagon racing back to our city. It's been gone for 13 years. We last had chuckwagon racing here in 2011. And yeah, we've got a pretty good facility as far as Western Canada goes," said Metchewais.

The return of the races was met with enthusiasm from the community.

“We've got the people, the town, the market. We have all the ingredients to put on a very good event. Everybody needs to try and give back to their community and do something good and have an event that people can get excited about. And I just thought it was time.”

Reflecting on the hiatus, he noted, "We had races for a lot of years here and then everything stopped happening. And that happens in towns, right? Just new ideas, new board members, and we just wanted to revive it. I was active with the Bonnyville Ag Society and then I left the ag society there and it was just kind of a conversation that I had with one of the board members here [in Cold Lake] and I said I would do what I could to help bring wagon racing back to town."

Metchewais emphasized the cultural significance of wagon racing in the region.

"Wagon racing people really like it around here. Truly, it defines us in Western Canada. It's always been a big fan favourite. And so, it was just a time that we created some excitement in our area."

The economic impact of the event was another key consideration. "You look at our wagons that we have out here, there's every wagon that comes in, they have a following. There could be 10, 12 people that follow each wagon. They bring their money into town, everybody's staying in town, everybody's excited because we have a casino. We've got Tim Hortons, we've got Walmart, we've got all those things that other communities don't have. So, they probably are combining this with either a shopping trip or just to get out and do something - and of course our dances here are always big.”

Looking ahead, he stressed the need for continued local business support.

"We just need to get more local businesses in behind us to... make these events more of a reality.”

Metchawais mentioned the event attracted visitors from various regions, including northern Saskatchewan and areas around the Lakeland such as Lac La Biche, St. Paul, and Elk Point, particularly for the Indian relay races that were hosted alongside the chuckwagons.

Despite some challenges, Metchewais is hopeful for the future. "

“We're hoping we can grow this.”

The event also featured top competitors aiming for the Calgary Stampede. "These guys are running to try to qualify for next year's Calgary Stampede, so that's a bit of a stepping stone there."

In addition to chuckwagon racing, the event hosted Indian relays for the first time in Cold Lake, along with a few other new events.

"We've incorporated some local barrel racers and local pole bending, bringing out some local talent like they used to do."

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week