MALVERN — Jennifer Bailey has been going to the chuck-wagon races in Clinton ever since she was a kid living in Texas.
“I would drive all the way up here because of my dad, and every year after that,” Bailey said. “You can bring your own horses and ride around and visit with other families.
“I think it is really good family entertainment, and it is a sport, and it is fun to watch other people doing it, even if you don’t want to do it yourself.”
Bailey’s infatuation with the wagon races as a child eventually led her to compete herself. She and her husband, Mark Bailey, have been competing for 15 years.
“Mark and I always compete in the pasture roping and the chuck-wagon races, and that’s what made us decide to do it here. It is a lot of fun,” Jennifer said.
Whiskey Ridge Ranch in Malvern, where Mark and Jennifer work as trainers, will host the first-ever Racing on the Ridge, beginning Thursday and lasting through May 20.
The chuck-wagon races, which will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday and May 20, are sanctioned by the Arkansas Chuckwagon Racing Association and will qualify teams for the national races in Clinton. Jennifer said that as of Monday, 14 teams had already signed up.
“This is a national qualifying race, so we will have teams from other states as well, including Oklahoma,
Texas and Louisiana,” she said. “In order to qualify for Clinton, you have to go to so many [races] out of state as well.
“It is a chance to meet people from other areas and stuff because it is not just Arkansas people.”
The races in Clinton are usually held the week leading up to Labor Day.
“”We have been going to the one in Clinton for a long time,” Jennifer said. “Several people came by here and said, ‘Y’all have a nice setup; you should host races here.’
“And so as much as we love to do it, we decided to go ahead and do it here.”
“We had been talking about it, and we decided to do it,” Mark said. “Everybody got on board. Within a week’s time, we already had a date voted on.”
Chuck-wagon race teams are made up of three people — the driver, the cook and the outrider, who is on horseback. Mark usually acts as the outrider,
while Jennifer will drive, and either their son, Justin Davis, or daughter, Linda Bailey, will be the cook. Linda has also competed in endurance races in Clinton.
“Mark is standing behind the wagon with his horse or mule, and the cook has to throw in a blanket or bedroll,” Jennifer said. “Once they say, ‘Cooks load your wagon,’ they throw the bedroll in, turn a barrel and race around the track.”
Jennifer said the idea is based on how a rider would go ahead of the chuck wagon and scout the region for rough terrain or water.
“That’s why the outrider has to be ahead of the wagon by the end of the race,” Jennifer said.
Teams can be made up of husbands, wives and kids, or three guys or three girls, Jennifer said.
“There is no method to the madness,” she said. “It is a pretty family-oriented sport.”
Other events include a trail ride, a ranch rodeo, a horse and mule race, a costume relay race, a barrel race, pony races and a ridge-runner — or endurance — race. There will also be a vendor area and a petting zoo.
“It will be fun for everybody,” Jennifer said. “It is the equine version of NASCAR.
“There will be a play area for kids, including tire swings and other kid-friendly stuff that they can do. There will also be a lot of different vehicles that will be on display, thanks to our sponsors.”
Jennifer said there will also be pasture roping, where cows will be turned loose, and participants have to rope them.
“That will be on Friday,” she said. “Friday night, we will also have the horse and mule show.”
The cost for admission is $20 per person per day, but that includes every event, including the three concerts — “everything except for food,” Jennifer said. “We will have a concert each night, including a duo from Nashville and a couple of local artists and bands that will be here, too.”
Competitors and visitors do have the option of camping on the ranch. Jennifer said if they choose to do that, it will cost $70 for all three nights.
“We were told we would get between 20 and 30 teams our first time,” she said. “We have teams from Amity, Mountain Pine, Haskell and Bismarck.
“I would say we have about 10 teams just from our general vicinity.”
For more information, visit the Whiskey Ridge Ranch Facebook page.
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.