The summer season of chuckwagons is fast approaching, with canvas auctions like the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby happening last Tuesday.
Dewberry driver Kurt Bensmiller earned the top bid of the racers with a $185,000 sponsorship from Versatile Energy Solutions Ltd.
His brother Chance Bensmiller was sponsored by PCL Construction Services, Inc. for $70,000.
Meanwhile Bonnyville area racers like Kris Flanagan received a bid of $55,000 from KV Capital, “The Story from La Corey” Doug Irvine is sponsored by Private Sales Financing for $45,000, and Danny Ringuette received a bid from The Brakeman Foundation for $35,000.
Vern Nolin, who also hails from Dewberry, had the second highest bid of $180,000 from McCaw’s Drilling & Blasting Ltd.
“After two years off, we weren’t really sure what was gonna happen there,” said Kurt Bensmiller to Lakeland Connect. “We did really well. There’s a few guys that did. I mean, everybody always hopes for higher, but I mean, I think just being back at the Stampede is going to be good for a lot of the drivers.”
The circuit hasn’t been quite the same with the pandemic over the last two seasons, while the costs have gone up as well. But racers like Bensmiller are glad to have a normal looking season ahead, including the WPCA’s return to Bonnyville from June 2-5.
“With all the expenses still going out, and nothing coming in like it used to, it made it tough for a lot of guys, but I’m glad most of them survived it. And everybody’s really looking forward to get back out,” said Bensmiller.
“Anytime we’re close to home it helps out. It saves on feed, everything, because when you’re on the road buying all that stuff, it just makes it a little more expensive. So we get back home and the stuff we’ve already got banked up here, it makes life a lot easier.”
He said he’s excited to also have a hometown date in Dewberry from June 24-26.
The total raised came in at just over of 2.1 million dollars, while six drivers eclipsed the $100,000 mark.
The number of participating wagons in the Rangeland Derby is down from 2019 from 36 to 27, but the average bid of just under $78,000 would rank 9th best of all time in the event’s 42 year history.
The Bonnyville event will showcase a $20,000 Dash for Cash on Sunday, June 5, the WPCA reported. The top four drivers with the fastest cumulative time over the first three nights will qualify for the final dash, while every other heat will have $1000 added.