Dwayne Dubuc can’t help but feel like a kid during Christmas these days.
The president of the Alberta Professional Chuckwagon and Chariot Association is eagerly anticipating the organization’s first full race in nearly 22 months, which will get underway Friday at Westerner Park.
Overall, more than 35 chuckwagons and 24 chariots will compete in the three-day North American Pony Chuckwagon Championships, at the Wagons at Westerner event.
“Everybody has been really champing at the bit to get going again here,” Dubuc said.
“We’ve got contact with the drivers, especially since now that things are going and everybody is really quite excited about getting back out. We’re anticipating some pretty good crowds.”
Ticket requests have come from all across the province for Dubuc and his fellow drivers. He said families are more eager than ever to take a trip to Red Deer to watch the event after the COVID-19 pandemic kept people at home over the last year and a half.
Combine that with the dedicated local fans, he is sure it will be a can’t-miss event.
“Any time we can race in front of an educated crowd – Red Deer always seems to have very knowledgeable fans, loud and appreciative and that’s always exciting to us as well,” Dubuc said.
There will also be a new champion this summer, as back-to-back defending champion Reed Rosencrans of North Dakota won’t make the trip.
“He was wanting to come and made a real good effort to get up here, just cannot do so,” Dubuc said.
Still, Dubuc says there will be lots of talent and local flavour in both the chuckwagons and chariots, including the several members of the Stott family.
“We have some (drivers) that after having the year off, some have retired due to health and so on. There’s probably going to be six or eight new wagon drivers out of the 39 that have not had an opportunity to come to Red Deer,” he said.
Dubuc also praised Westerner Park and the staff for being able to put on some sort of event, despite the cancellation of Westerner Days.
“They’ve just done so much work to get this event off the ground with the cancellation of the fair itself – traditional Westerner Days,” he said.
“I think it was just impressive they were able to still put something together to give people that opportunity to get out there and have some entertainment.”
Tickets will be available at the gate but only a limited number will be sold.
Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with chariot races starting at 5:30 p.m. and chuckwagons to follow around 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, gates open at noon and the chariot races get underway at 1 p.m., with chuckwagons to follow at 2 p.m.