The Calgary Stampede is known across the globe. It not only boasts the highest rodeo purse in the world, but cowboys consider it to be the highlight of the rodeo season. One of the biggest draws to the rodeo grounds every stampede is the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races. They are fast, exciting, and sometimes dangerous, but they always have the biggest crowds. Each wagon is covered with a tarp adorned with company sponsorships. As far as the rodeo goes, this is the most coveted advertising space there is.
Every year Kevin and Cindy Gjertsen attend a pre-stampede charity silent auction called Big Hearted Cowboys. At the 2008 auction, Kevin decided to bid on a package from the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. The package included admission for 24 guests to have exclusive access to the grandstand and tour the rodeo barns. However, the best feature of the package was having your own chuckwagon tarp sponsorship for a night and a meet and greet with your driver.
The family decided not to disclose anything about the chuckwagon to Kris (Kristian) Gjertsen and his wife Bertha, wanting it to remain a surprise.
On a rainy July night, the family organized a big Stampede outing. Planning to meet at the grounds and make their way to the grandstand, Kris and Bertha had no idea what was in store for them. When they arrived at the barns, there sat the wagon, with its pristine white tarp and the Kristian Electric name and logo emblazoned across it. Surrounded by over 20 family members, KEL employees and friends, Kris and Bertha were overjoyed!
The driver of the Kristian Electric wagon was Hugh Sinclair; a four-time Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby champion from Grande Prairie. After meeting Hugh and having a good look at their wagon, the group made their way to their box seats. While sipping drinks and eating hors d’ourves, Kris watched his wagon place 1st in its heat. Hugh Sinclair went on to win the 2008 Rangeland Derby!
Kris was on cloud nine for days, even sharing his news with all of his good friends in the Shriners, who dubbed him “The Big Wheel” for his chuckwagon accomplishment. Sadly, it was only 6 days after watching the race that Kris suddenly passed away.
After his passing, it was revealed that years ago when his kids were young, Kris was watching the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race with his son when he made a revealing prediction. Being one who always dreamed big, he turned to his son and declared, “One day my name will be on the side of one of those chuckwagons.”
Here’s to you, Kris, and your stampede dream come true!