With 2021 just around the corner and a rebuild from the cancelled 2020 season on the horizon, the landscape for the future begins to take shape.
The World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2020 this past weekend and with restrictions related to COVID-19 preventing in person meetings, members were forced to go virtual for the first time in the associations history.
Over 40 drivers, officers and staff were screen side to participate in the meeting which is typically held in person during the race season. One of the main agenda items every year is to fill open board member positions. In the WPCA there are eight driver director positions. For 2021 there would be four drivers entering their 2nd year of a 2 year term and four positions that would require filling.
Representing the WPCA as driver directors in 2021 will be Kurt Bensmiller, Codey McCurrach, Mitch Sutherland, Luke Tournier, Mark Sutherland, Layne MacGillivray, Ross Knight and Dustin Gorst.
Kurt BENSMILER, a 4-Time World and Calgary Stampede Champion, enters his 2nd year of a two year term as driver director. In his 20 years of wagon racing, Kurt has been a board member for twelve of those twenty years and recently provided some insight on his role as director.
"I joined the WPCA board of directors for two reasons" said Bensmiller, "I wanted to learn more about the day to day operations and I also felt I could help the guys who wanted to build the sport and WPCA so that all drivers could benefit."
Codey MCCURRACH also enters year 2 of his 2 year term. Codey started driving with the WPCA in 2006 and has been a WPCA board member for 10 of the 14 years he's raced in the WPCA. McCurrach says his role as director is to work for the membership of the WPCA and help guide the association in a direction which supports growth and sustainability.
Mitch SUTHERLAND, the 2016 Calgary Stampede Reserve Champion, is also one of the four driver directors who enters his 2nd year of a 2 year term. Mitch started driving in 2004 and has volunteered for 8 years as a driver director since that time. "We are all heavily invested in the sport so I would like to have some kind of voice" says Mitch.
Luke TOURNIER rounds out the four drivers returning for their 2nd term. A 30 year veteran who started his career with the CPCA, Luke has won 2 Calgary Stampede Championships, he was crowned the World Champion in 2016 and has collected sixteen major titles since joining the WPCA in 2003.
With four of the eight driver director positions filled by drivers entering their 2nd year terms, WPCA drivers and officers would vote to fill the final four positions. Mark Sutherland, Ross Knight, Layne MacGillivray and Dustin Gorst would be those four.
Mark SUTHERLAND started driving in 1993. The 2019 Ponoka Stampede Champion has represented the WPCA as a driver director for over 20 years, he has played a key role as judging director and has represented the WPCA with show committees, the Calgary Stampede and multiple programs. Off the racetrack Mark hosts the Mark Sutherland Charity Poker Tournament in support of Pace Kids and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Society.
Ross KNIGHT returns to the WPCA Driver Director team after a completing a 2 year term in 2019. Ross started outriding in 1982 then started driving his own outfit in 1991. Since that time Ross has raced with the CPCA and WPCA and has spent over 20 years as either a driver or outrider director.
Layne MACGILLIVRAY'S recent 2 year term ended in 2020 however like Mark Sutherland, MacGillivray was voted back in by his fellow drivers to continue to help lead the WPCA going forward. Layne started outriding in 1989 then eleven years later started driving. Similar to Ross Knight, MacGillivray has competed both in the CPCA and WPCA over his 30+ year career. When asked about the number of times he has been a director Layne said "I think this is my sixth 2 year term with the WPCA, I had one 2 year term with the CPCA and a couple years as the CPCA outriding director."
Dustin GORST enters his first term as a driver director with the WPCA since becoming a WPCA member in 2012. Dustin started outriding in 2002 with the CPCA and was a board member in 2011. In 2014 Dustin started his driving career then three years later in 2017 made his first appearance at the Calgary Stampede. Dustin has a combined 11 driving and outriding titles and awards to his credit. "I just wanted to be part of a leadership group and help put on a great product for 2021 and help sustain the sport" says Gorst. "Obviously being voted in as a new director means someone is not not returning. Every driver who has volunteered their time in the past deserves a lot of credit for their contribution to the association. I hope I can make the same impact."
The WPCA Driver Director position is a volunteer position that requires a year round commitment beyond the racetrack. Driver Directors must balance their work life, home life and chuckwagon racing business and find some alignment amongst the membership to get a consensus of direction for the betterment of the sport.
The driver directors like all WPCA members have a significant investment in the sport and their experience and innovative ideas are key for the sports sustainability
All board members past and present deserve recognition for their efforts and contribution to the World Professional Chuckwagon Association and the sport of chuckwagon racing.