The Calgary Stampede might be The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but the Stampede circuit has historic roots that stretch across the Province of Alberta. When I began researching my novel, The Half Mile of Baby Blue, I acknowledged that if my Western family were to race their chuckwagon, desiring to save their ranch and also pay tribute to their grandfather’s legacy, they’d not only have to train hard, they’d also have to start the season at the Grande Prairie Stompede.
According to the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, the first race of the season circles the barrels on the half mile of Hell at the Grande Prairie Stompede. This is where my fictional Wheeler family first takes to the track, driving the chuckwagon and thoroughbred horses to the starting line, risking family history to repeat itself.
In my fictional story, Cole Wheeler was the driver on the first race day. His sisters Kit and Samantha join him as outriders. They face a difficult challenge. The sport is favored with professional drivers and outriders, men more experienced and knowledgable about the sport then this fictional ranch family. Accidents happen. But like Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican Bobsled team, a family, and female heroines will assume the risks.
I questioned why the sport is dominated with male hero’s. A woman has never competed at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but the real world is changing and it’s pretty exciting that on May 30th, 2018, one of Cole Wheeler’s competitors would have been a woman, Rilee Letendre, a real Woman of Stampede. She finished 11th place overall for a second year in a row, proving that a woman does have the strength to drive thoroughbreds on the half mile of Hell and pursue her chuckwagon goals. Read more about Rilee Letendre here.
The race continues after the Grande Prairie Stompede, and professional drivers, outriders, helpers and their families travel across Alberta and Saskatchewan most of the summer to venues in Saskatoon, Medicine Hat, High River, and the Ponoka Stampede, all these races taking place prior to the Calgary Stampede.
Fans of the sport have many opportunities to watch their favorite professional chuckwagon champions all across the province. Makes me want to experience not only the smaller exhibitions but also the beautiful Province of Alberta.
This summer, experience the Stampede circuit and Travel Alberta.
The Half Mile of Baby Blue and The Women of Stampede Romance novels are available at Chapters / Indigo and other digital e-tailers.