By KEVIN HAMPSON
The Grande Prairie Stompede illustrates the deep roots of western culture in the Peace Country, said Terri Sudnik, who was named Stomper of the Year Tuesday.
Sudnik, president of the Stompede board, received the award during the Stompede’s Bust Out barbecue celebration in the parking lot of Revolution Place.
“The Canadian Western heritage that we celebrate and the camaraderie that we have between wagon drivers, rodeo athletes, volunteers in the dirt on the pavement – it’s something you’re not going to find anywhere other than the Grande Prairie region,” Sudnik said.
“Because it’s all entrepreneurial spirit, where volunteers roll up their sleeves, pull on their boots, and we just get the job done … and that’s what we do here in Grande Prairie.”
Announcing the award, the Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Pura said Sudnik “dedicates her whole life to Stompede.”
Sudnik said it felt “amazing” to receive it.
“The reason it feels amazing is because everyone here has put their heart and soul into volunteering to make this event happen.
“Eighteen years ago when I joined this committee not once did I ever think that I would be able to make such an impact in the community and be part of something larger than life. Stompede over the last 40 years has created a momentum and something that’s leaving a legacy for the community.”
As of early Tuesday afternoon, ticket sales were 8% ahead of where they were last year at the same time, Sudnik said.
“The calibre of athletes that we have, and with Kelly Sutherland racing here again, this is the year to come. If you were waiting and thinking, I’ll go next year … this is the year to come out, because what you’re going to see out there is unbelievable.”
Also during the event, the 40th anniversary chuckwagon was unveiled by Phil Troyer and Rick Fraser, WPCA wagon driver. The wagon undercarriage belonged to Fraser’s father, Dave Lewis, who drove it when he won the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby in 1988 and 1990. The Fraser family donated the undercarriage to the Stompede. The wagon box was donated by the Troy Dorchester family, and was last raced by Dallas Dorchester, who won the Grande Prairie Stompede five times.
The Business Appreciation Award, which goes to a business dedicated to promoting western heritage, went to Big Country 93.1 FM. Morning show host Lyle West accepted it.
“We are proud to be a part of Stompede each and every year for 37 years,” he said.
Arne Lavalley of Bezanson was introduced as the 2017 Wagonmaster.