Checking out the National Championship Chuckwagon Race

Zoie Clift
 
I had a chance to
check out the National Championship Chuckwagon Race this weekend. They are the largest outdoor chuckwagon races in the nation and this year marked  the 25th
anniversary of the event. The races are held Friday
through Sunday every Labor Day weekend at the Of Ranch in Clinton. An estimated
one hundred fifty teams compete in five different divisions for the title of
National Champion. It started out as a party for a few friends and over the years has grown to
host an estimated 30,000 spectators.  On tap for the day ( I went on Saturday) was chuckwagon racing, bronc fanning and the Snowy River Race, an adrenaline fueled horse race that includes two downhill runs and a plunge into the
river.

The winners in each division take home silver belt buckles and share in over
$20,000 in prizes. 
Below is more
information on the races so you can get up to speed on the history of the event if you might want to go sometime. This information is care of the the Encyclopedia of
Arkansas History & Culture.


The National
Championship Chuckwagon Race is held every Labor Day weekend at Dan and Peggy
Eoff’s ranch in Clinton. Spectators from across the United States travel to the
small town nestled in the Ozark Mountains to see the largest outdoor
chuckwagon race in the country.

The chuckwagon is
associated with Charles Goodnight, who designed the first wagon to follow the
cattle trails in the 1800s. Stories hold that, at the end of the cattle drive,
the cowhands would collect their pay, pack up their supplies, and race into
town. Legend has it that the last one there had to buy the first round of
drinks for all.

The races were started
in 1986 when Dan and Peggy Eoff decided to host a Labor Day party for a few of
their friends, inviting them to bring their horses and wagons and have a race.
The Eoffs expected about 100 people to attend, but over 500 came to watch the
eight teams that participated. Following the weekend’s event, people who were
not able to attend persuaded the Eoffs to have another one. The next year, the
Eoffs advertised, traveling throughout the state to promote the event. That
year, sixteen teams entered, and the crowd grew to about 1,500. Year after
year, the number of teams increased, as did the number of spectators. In 2006,
the twentieth anniversary of the first chuckwagon race, over 20,000 people
attended to watch 135 teams participate. Nearly 5,000 equine (horses and mules)
were verified through the gates, making this event the largest equine event in
the state.

Over the years, days
were added to the event, now stretching the entire week before Labor Day.
Concerts, trail rides, camping, and horse/mule activities occur throughout the
week.

The race has very few
rules. Three people make up a team

Posted in Travel Arkansas

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