The return of the Calgary Stampede canvas auction on Tuesday night reflected much of the economic uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is generally seen as a bellwether for Alberta’s oil and gas industry, as many of the sponsors who pay to have their company’s name featured on carts competing in the festival rodeo are actors from the energy industry.

Of the 27 platforms scheduled to participate this year, the highest reached $185,000 while the lowest was $35,000.

At the last canvas auction in 2019, 36 wagons raised nearly $3.3 million.

This year, the total was $2.1 million.

“It’s very difficult, for example, to compare an auction from 2019 or before with an auction from 2022,” said Steve McDonough, president and chairman of the Stampede.

Wagon driver Jason Glass listens to bids during the Calgary Stampede Wagon Canvas Auction in Calgary, Alta., on Tuesday. Sponsors bidding at the Calgary Stampede Cart Race Canvas Auction have generally been a barometer of Alberta’s economy. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

“It’s apples and oranges. We have fewer wagons, things have changed and we are coming out of a pandemic hopefully. I would like to warn that we are not here to break records.”

There was a lot of anticipation about this year’s auction. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Stampede was canceled for the first time in 100 years. He came back last year, but without a wagon race.

“It was disappointing not to be here,” pilot Kurt Bensmiller said of the scaled-down 2021 Stampede. His team attracted the highest canvas bid this year.

Wagon drivers line up on stage before bidding during the Calgary Stampede Wagon Canvas Auction Calgary, Alta., Tuesday. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

“I’m pretty excited. I wasn’t sure what to expect after two years off. I’m a little speechless. This is the highest I’ve sold. So after two years off , we want to be here in Calgary.”

Bensmiller said cart racing is an expensive sport and the money goes to offset the costs of competing.

“I don’t know what the average was, but I mean no one is ever happy. Everyone always wants more money. It doesn’t matter who you are – the best salesman or the worst salesman. But I hope everyone walks with a little encouragement.”

Wagon driver Vern Nolin listens to bids during the Calgary Stampede Wagon Canvas Auction Calgary, Alta., Tuesday. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

Kent Stormoen, owner of Versatile Energy Services Ltd., purchased the canvas for Bensmiller’s team for the fourth time.

“The last two years have been really, really tough in the oil industry,” Stormoen said.

He added that there had been some reversal as oil prices soared following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“If we can support the Calgary Stampede and the Chucks, we’re all on it,” he said.

Stormoen said he was a little surprised at the disparity between the top offers for Bensmiller and Vern Nolin, who received $180,000, and those at the lower end of the scale.

“Kurt and Vern are probably the two best drivers here. And there are some really good drivers who sold after them who I think deserved a bit more recognition than them.”

Nolin said he hoped things would get back to normal on the chuckwagon circuit and was happy to be back. But he said he feared it might not be as easy for some of the teams that received low bids.

“That’s good. I know $180,000 sounds like a lot of money. But we carry a lot of costs with us, and the cost of everything has gone up and food is very high this year,” he said. -he declares.

“You have to look at some of the other offers and there’s not much left there. So I guess you can say that Kurt and I had a chance and we’ll make good use of it.”

The Stampede runs July 8-17.


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