The chuckwagons get rolling again for the 2023 World Pro Chuckwagon Association season Wednesday night in Grande Prairie.
It's the hometown of Mark Sutherland who's announced he's retiring at the end of the season.
"I still haven't surpassed the time I lived up there, so I've got another 5 or 10 years to go down here (Foothills County) and then at least this'll be equal to it, lots of friends, lots of family and lots of history up there in Grande Prairie and it's my second hometown obviously."
But he's not looking at it so much as a sentimental trip.
"Well, not really, everything comes to an end, and I've recognized that over the last number of years, you know I was kind of ready for something new in my life. Grande Prairie is an important place, there's a lot of money up there, they've increased their Dash to $75,000 which is currently bigger than the Calgary Stampede so it's a significant show in that sense but as far as it meaning more because it's one of the last shows, it probably hasn't sunk in but I think it'll be an eventful summer for me I'm sure at every show because it'll be the last time I go there as a competitor and I've been doing it all my life so I'm going to Grande Prairies to try and win a bunch of money and win some wagon races and if I spend some time driving around the track reminiscing, I guess I'm probably going too slow," Sutherland says.
He says chuckwagons have been a huge part of his life so he will miss it and retirement from the sport will be a significant change.
Sutherland says some of his horses will retire at his ranch while the hardest part is going to be saying goodbye to others.
"Retiring is easy, I can sell trucks and give away chuckwagons but the horse, that's what I'm finding very, very difficult. I've had some calls from some other drivers that are interested in buying some of the horses but I'm being very selective, I haven't sold a horse yet, obviously I've got at least half the year to go but it's the part I'm finding the most difficult."
He says the younger ones have too much left in them and feels he'd be cheating the horses if he not giving them the opportunity to run.
"When my dad quit it was easy enough because I was well established in the sport and I bought all the horses, but Dayton's still trying to get a spot at Calgary, which is the big money show, and he's still trying to establish himself so financially it's impossible for him to just buy everything,"
"I'm dealing with a few guys now, trying to sell a few horses and some of them, you know you've been with them eight or ten years, it's very hard honestly to even think about selling them to another competitor, but by the same token Dayton's got 27 so he can only take so many so it's a difficult task trying to liquidate a bunch of horses you fell in love with over the years."
Sutherland says it's one of the most difficult things he's had to do but with a nephew, a brother-in-law, a son, a cousin and an uncle that all race along with competitors that he respects that he knows will race and feed and race them well safely so that's where the horse will go.
The Grande Prairie Stompede goes until Sunday, June 4, 2023.