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Chariot races returning to local community

Modern-day chariot racing in Rigby | Courtesy Laramie Wheeler
RIGBY — Chariot racing isn’t just for ancient Rome. Local charioteers are reviving the sport and bringing it back to Rigby.
“The community was we wanted it back, so we brought it back,” Laramie Wheeler of Rigby tells
She is a member of the World Champion Cutter and Chariot Racing Association. The small but growing group in Rigby has been working to revive the sport locally and the Intermountain West.
As in Roman times, chariot racing consists of one or two horses, a chariot and a driver running at top speeds against one or two other teams. Teams compete to win a place at the state and national levels.
Chariot racing is a family sport even though it happens during the coldest month of the year. The season begins in December and runs until March.
“It’s such a family-based sport and always has been,” she says, recalling the days she would spend at the races with her own family when her father, Don Wheeler, was the announcer. “I’m fortunate enough to have my family involved, and I’m able to incorporate my family. Without a family, none of us would be able to run.”
Following tradition, the club in Rigby is starting to wind down the season with an eye on the championships in March.
“We have been running (races) every weekend depending on the weather,” Wheeler said.
Although folks have noticed the teams out racing and have started showing up to watch, Wheeler says pulling the sport back from obscurity is tough.
“We have a couple of new faces this year and a couple of new teams. But other than that, it’s kind of just the same people,” she says.
The Rigby club races against teams from Afton, Wyoming and Utah, so getting people out — even if they know about the races — can be challenging since the teams take turns hosting the events.
“People don’t know about it or … they don’t want to travel to Utah, they don’t want to travel to Afton,” Wheeler says.
Until now, they’ve been racing just for the sake of racing. However, they’ve been able to take a big step forward in their efforts to save the sport.
“We actually brought World (to Rigby),” she says.
The World Cutter Championships will be held in Rigby for the next three years, she says.

Courtesy Laramie Wheeler
“It’s great that we’ve brought it here because we’ve been having a pretty decent crowd, especially when all of Afton comes down here,” she says. “It’s kind of starting to take a little boom. Well, that is great because we want it to come back.”
The World Championships used to bring in about 50 teams, Wheeler says. When you consider the fans and family who come to watch the teams, it used to be quite a crowd.
“Now, with our World, we can get anywhere between 15 and 20 (teams), which is sad.”
The World Champion Cutter and Chariot Racing Association World Championship will be on Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 319 Veteran Memorial Drive in Rigby. Racing will begin at noon on both days. Awards will be given out on Sunday; the champion will receive a new chariot.
If you are unfamiliar with the sport, this is a great opportunity to join the fun, get some hands-on learning and ask questions.
“I think it’s starting to become a hit,” Wheeler said. “I think it will be great.”
The post Chariot races returning to local community appeared first on East Idaho News.

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