As we wait for official word from the Calgary Stampede on whether they'll be going in some capacity or not, we know the first four races won't run like normal or at all. It was announced on April 9th, 2020 the Grande Prairie Stompede and High River Guy Weadick Days will be cancelled due to COVID-19. Saskatoon and Medicine Hat made the decision to postpone their events, as the news and information around this virus change every day.
About the only thing which is certain right now is Dustin Gorst making sure he's ready for whenever the horn will sound. Gorst also knows when the first race gets going, everyone else will be ready too. "I'm fully confident all 36 drivers will be ready to go. They'll be up to speed, and be just as competitive like any other year."
COVID-19 has impacted almost everyone's job in some form or another, chuckwagon racing is no different. It's a source of income for many people besides the drivers. Along with the cowboys in the box, a team consists of horses, outriders, sponsors, barn hands, vets and much more. "Like anything, it's a trickle-down effect," Gorst explains. "The easiest thing to adjust is shopping next fall. Most of us won't be buying any horses. So the money that goes to the racetrack to buy horses will be gone."
"The second easiest thing is to cut down on the number of hired hands. And that's going to be a trickle-down effect on how much you pay your outriders. It's a trickle-down effect that everybody makes a living off of us. In the reason of survival, we're going to have to do anything we can to lower the cost of wagon racing."
Gorst still has snow up in Northern Saskatchewan, which means he's had his eyes set for the spring for a while. Even though events are changing, it's not changing how he prepares for the season. "I've already been putting some slow miles in, but now that it's changed, I'm just going to lay back," said Gorst. "We've got lots of snow up here yet in Northern Saskatchewan. So I'll wait until the snows gone and start driving new (horses) and make a decision on what I'm going to do with the old guys and when to start them." Gorst doesn't have a time frame for how long it would take his horses to be ready to roll, he just knows they'll be ready.
Like all of us, Gorst is keeping a positive perspective on the 2020 season. He's hoping to be running on June 26th, when the WPCA is scheduled to roll into Ponoka.
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