Wagons ho!

Labor Day in Clinton means chuck wagon races

CLINTON - What began 23 years ago with eight wagons on a Sunday night is now the National Championship Chuckwagon Races, the largest such event in the United States. Founded by Dan and Peggy Eoff and held annually on Labor Day weekend in Clinton, it now attracts about 150 wagons and more than 20,000 spectators.

See video of Chuckwagon Races in Clinton.

Cameraman hurt at races

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Galloping horses and a simple set of four rules listed in the official program provide the excitement that keeps fans and competitors showing up every year. Each team consists of a cook, a driver and an outrider. At the sound of the gun, the outrider throws a stove in the wagon and mounts his horse and the race is on. An outrider must cross the finish line before the nose of the horses pulling his team's wagon.

Kathy Vick, of Odessa, Mo., has been coming to the races for the past four years. She, like many of the competitors and spectators, spends the week leading up to the races on the ranch taking part in trail rides and other activities.

Vick says the camaraderie of being around people who have a common interest is one of the main reasons she returns each year. That and the racing.

"It's just exciting," she says. "I used to rodeo, I used to team-pin, I used to barrel-race andthis is just a whole lot different. It's a lot more exciting."

First-time competitor Trina Mannon, 11, of Quitman has two favorite things about the chuck wagon races.

"Riding and racing," says Trina, a chuck wagon spectator since she was 1 year old.

It is safe to say Trina is not alone, at least not on Labor Day weekend in Clinton.

Style, Pages 33 on 09/04/2008