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WPCA Saddened By The News That Longtime Active Supporter Al Side Has Passed On

Posted By Billy Melville on November 15, 2023

Al Side (Inset)
June 27, 1933  – Oct. 25, 2023
1976 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Champions
Northern Metalic Chuckwagon Outfit

(L-R): Outriders Randy Fisher & Butch David, Driver Ralph Vigen, Sponsor Al Side, Outriders Roy David & Richard Fisher
Missing: Outrider Terry Vigen

The World Professional Chuckwagon Association is saddened by the news that longtime active supporter Al Side “Went West” on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, with his family by his side, at the age of 90.

Al was a fan of chuckwagon racing for over six decades, beginning in 1973 when he sponsored chuckwagon legend Ralph Vigen. Al had his first taste of success that year in a major way by winning the Ponoka Stampede and following it up with another win at the Saturday Morning Round-Up at the Calgary Stampede. It would be the start of what would be a four year run of success beyond belief with sponsor Al Side and driver Ralph Vigen.

1974 saw the Al Side/Northern Metalic Sales chuckwagon win five times, including major wins at the Ponoka Stampede for the second consecutive year and at the Big M Stampede in Morris Manitoba. They also captured the Grande Prairie County Fair for the first of what would be three consecutive championships at the hometown show.

Success did not slow down for Al Side and Ralph Vigen heading into the 1975 chuckwagon season, as the combination would capture a remarkable nine show championships en route to winning the World Chuckwagon Championship and crushing the single season earnings record in the process. The Northern Metalic wagon posted major wins at Cloverdale and Lethbridge, and a won a record third consecutive Ponoka Stampede Championship which still stands to this day, equaled only by George Normand in 1989.

Al Side reached the pinnacle of chuckwagon racing in 1976 when the Northern Metalic outfit, with Ralph Vigen driving, captured the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby. They won their third consecutive Grande Prairie County Fair and the World Chuckwagon Championship for the second consecutive year, again setting a single season earnings record slightly over their 1975 mark. It was also the first time the Calgary Stampede allowed a commercial business name to be used and recognized on the chuckwagon’s canvas as opposed to rules that only allowed the sponsor’s given name and surname, legitimate farm, ranch or district represented to be recognized on a chuckwagon’s canvas.

Over the next few years the Northern Metalic canvas would fly on the chuckwagons of drivers such s Slim Helmle, Kelly Sutherland and Glen DeLaronde. In 1983, Al and Northern Metalic sponsored a young up and coming driver named Rick Fraser who went on to capture the Ponoka Stampede. Al Side’s four wins as a sponsor at the Ponoka Stampede is another record that stands to this day, again equaled only by George Normand and his Majestic RV World rig in 1992.

In the late 1990’s and as he crossed over into the new millennium, two more of Al’s ventures entered the chuckwagon game – VISA Rentals and Leasing and Baron Oilfield Supply. VISA Rentals and Leasing as a sponsor of both chuckwagon driver Hugh Sinclair and later on as a supplier of trophy trucks to the World Professional Chuckwagon Association. In 2006, Al and his partner Barry Smith backed chuckwagon driver Hugh Sinclair under the Baron Oilfield Supply canvas and won the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby. For Al Side, it was exactly 30 years after he had won his first Calgary Stampede with Ralph Vigen under the canvas of Northern Metalic in 1976.

With nearly two dozen major awards and victories including two World Championships, two Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Championships, and four Ponoka Stampede Championships, Al Side will go down in history as one of the most successful canvas sponsors the sport of chuckwagon racing has ever seen. For more than 40 years, Al not only achieved a tremendous amount of success on the racetrack, but contributed a lot to the overall betterment of chuckwagon racing. In 2012, VISA Leasing and Rentals was honored by the WPCA with it’s Active Supporter Award.

Al Side is predeceased by his infant daughter Deborah Elaine, daughters Wendy Elaine and Barbara Anne, his brothers Sam and Butch, sisters Anne, Mickey, Nettie, and Nedima.

Left to mourn this loss is Al’s large and loving family including his adoring wife and lifelong partner, Barbara, sister Tina Reimer, his brothers Dan Side (Trudy) and Jim Side, brother in law Dick Harrison sons Doug Side (Debbie), Richard Side (Martina), daughters Linda Side (Jim Munro), Rhonda Side (Jeremy Walker), grandchildren David Side (Jessica), Alexander Side (Vicky), Michael Side (Kelleigh), Brendan Side, Scarlett Side, Jessica Winnemuller (Michael), Megan Rycroft (Kenton), Allan Gudlaugson (Stephanie), Sarah Moug (Jeff), Asia Munro, Rebecca Moug, Tianna Munro, Delaina Moug, Robert Laffoon, Brian Spencer, Devon Side-Walker, Christopher Side-Walker,  great-grandchildren Vesa, Kayden, Willow, Alexus (Jarred), Matthew, Charis, Daniel, Oliver,  Benji, Nova and great-great grandson Noah.

A memorial service will be held at Hilltop Farm in the Spring.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Barb and Al Side Family Fund at the Northwestern Community Foundation of Alberta (https://cfna.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create/fund?funit_id=1597 ), a charitable endowment fund established to benefit communities throughout Northwestern Alberta.

Al will be missed by all in the WPCA, and we extend our sincere condolences to the Side family.

Billy Melville

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