Only 4 more months till the CPCA championships in Lloydminster

That time is coming, and the count down is on.  And this is the most exciting time for Westridge Buick GMC.

The Westridge power team attended the CPCA Tarp Auction this month, and on 24 drivers, a total of  $202,200 was bid for the tarps that will be proudly displayed during the CPCA season. Vern Nolin took home the highest bid as Bob Jack’s Sheet Metal hit the $20,000 mark for Nolin’s wagon.

CPCA marketing manager Bryan Hebson said the tarp auction is always a key night for all the drivers, the sponsors and the sport, in general. “The importance is the drivers are getting sponsorship. We’ve worked hard as an association and the Lloydminster Exhibition has worked hard to try and build the CPCA Westridge GMC Finals. And the importance, the tarp sponsorship is what helps these guys go down the road. The guys talk about it all the time,” Hebson said.

“The advertisers see the value in advertising on a chuckwagon. There’s a lot of benefits from radio, TV, events behind the barns, a captive audience here of over 16,000 over five nights. It’s plain and simple, it helps the drivers go down the road.” While Hebson wasn’t necessarily comparing the CPCA Tarp Auction to the Calgary Stampede’s auction, he noted that both increased in 2012. The CPCA sponsorship money was up $72,500 as drivers averaged $8,425 in 2012.

“Calgary Stampede just had their auction, it’s their 100th anniversary and they generated over $4 million. Obviously we didn’t expect that here, but the economy is good and the value for advertisers continues to increase,” Hebson said.

The 2012 season is the 20th anniversary for the CPCA and it officially kicks off May 25 in North Battleford, Sask. The defending champion, Devin Mitsuing said chuckwagon racing carries a lot of costs and while it’s a great sport, the costs can add up. “It’s a really expensive sport, so the sponsors are number one when it comes to the sport,” Mitsuing said. Mitsuing explained that the sponsors help in so many ways, but as Hebson noted, they’re one of the biggest reasons the drivers can attend each and every event and compete in the sport. “They’re the wheels that make our sport turn. Without them, none of us could afford to go down the road. They’re number one for us,” Mitsuing said. “They’re by the barns, they’re always putting on barbecues, little parties and they make it fun, too. They make going down the road a lot easier.”

Jamie Laboucane, who hopes to follow in Mitsuing’s footsteps and earn his first CPCA title next year, said the money typically goes to the same things every year, but those things are crucial to the success of the driver and the team. “You’re buying horses, you’re buying feed,” Laboucane said, adding it’s a win-win for the driver and the sponsors. “It’s good for sponsors, too. They get to come out and support their favourite driver and showcase last year.” Mitsuing said each driver is likely different when it comes to costs per week, or per show, but he explained his situation with his father and former CPCA champion.

Ray Mitsuing. “On a weekly bases – between me and my dad, we have five trucks that go on the road to a show. That’s at least a couple thousand in fuel and then we have 10 guys to feed and 30 horses to feed and take care of, so it could be up to $5,000 a weekend,” he said. “There are a lot of little expenses that go into a season.” Hebson said he doesn’t know for sure, but with the success of last year and the added day in Lloydminster for the CPCA Finals, there are a few reasons why the sponsorship dollars jumped in 2012.

“Last year’s finals, every day was packed. It was just amazing, record crowds. The Lloydminster Exhibition puts a lot of focus on building the Wagon Week. The mayor proclaimed the CPCA Finals Wagon Week and the Lloyd Ex. was nominated for a tourism award in Saskatchewan, going up against the likes of Regina and Saskatoon. It’s also a big economic boost to this community,” Hebson said. “There are a lot of people – from Calgary, Edmonton, Southern Alberta – who invest in hotels, food restaurants and such, so it’s a benefit for the community and we hope they come back out and support it.”