The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 22, 2014

Hitch up yer wagon: 1836 Chuck Wagon Races slated for March 1-9

Palestine Herald-Press


Last year, more than 1,000 horses and mules crossed the cattle guard at the gates of the Diamond B Ranch in Neches to participate in a Texas-sized celebration of western culture — incidentally while breaking the record for the largest equine gathering in the state.

The horses had come — along with about 3,000 humans — to take part in the first annual 1836 Chuck Wagon Race, a Texas Independence Day Weekend event that throws wagon racing, bronco riding, cowboys, clinics and more into one smorgasbord “Wild West” week of activities.

Diamond B Ranch owner Moon Swanson, who organized the event, said it's intended to give folks a chance to experience western culture and to look back across the pages of Texas' history.

“We're Texan to the bone out here,” Swanson said. “We love Texas, we love Texas history, and this whole wagon race is centered around a Texas Independence Day celebration. That's why it's called the 1836 Chuck Wagon Race, because that's when Texas won its independence.”

Accordingly, the event takes place the first week in March and features a lively schedule of activities and contests, including: five classes of wagon races, a cowboy-style match race, a Bronc Fann'n competition (akin to the saddle bronc event at a rodeo), pasture team roping and cowboy-mounted shooting.

Other activities include trail rides, barn dances, hoof care clinics, barrel racing clinics, dutch oven cooking classes, herd dog and bull whip demonstrations (respectively), cowboy poetry, cowboy church and more.

Should someone show up and want to take a horse home, they can do that too, from the Horse, Mule and Wagon Auction.

The event takes place over the course of a week, kicking off March 1 and lasting through March 9. People are welcome to show up any or all days and can camp on the property. Admission is $20 per person per day, unless you're a kid ages 12 and under, in which case you can trot in for $10. Admission includes a ticket to everything on the ranch, including entry into events and a place to pitch your tent.

“We encourage people to camp. It's an eight-nine day event. People bring living-quarters horse trailers, RVs with trucks and trailers, horse camps, (etc.),” Swanson said. “Some people do camp out the entire event.”

Shower and bathroom facilities will be available onsite, or for an extra fee, campers can reserve their own portable toilet by calling 903-941-5536.

As far as grub goes, food vendors will be on location serving plenty of John Wayne-worthy fare.

“We kind of put emphasis on local food with unique food items,” Swanson said, adding that the Diamond B farm store will be open during the week. The store sells a variety of merchandise, food and beverage items including cinnamon rolls, muffins, pies, coffee, grass-fed beef and “our Texas tacos, which are getting quite famous,” he added.

Local food venders will also offer items from gourmet burgers to handcrafted soda, which the crafter “sells out of a chuckwagon.”

The event will host a western trade show, featuring handmade items, leather chaps and chinks, saddles, tack, crafts, clothes, jewelry and more.

“We have vendors of really unique products,” Swanson said. “You'll see things here that you can't really buy at tax stores and western products that are hard to find — handmade stuff, artwork that's phenomenal, cowboy art, horse art. We have a blacksmith that will custom-make kids' toys, all kinds of little art pieces, fire pokers for your fire place, tools. He's onsite with a full blacksmith shop forging things right in front of you while you watch.”

Scheduled events will take place throughout the week, with the wagon races wrapping up the weekend.

In addition to competing, Swanson said people are encouraged to just come watch.

“We have a big parking lot. You can come get inside our garden, which you'll be behind our 8-foot fence to watch the wagon-race,” he said. “You're encouraged to bring your own lawn chairs, blankets, and whatever you want to make yourself comfortable, but there is a safety zone where you're not in the way of wagons running.”

In the true spirit of the Wild West, spectators are welcome to spectate on horseback. Horses have the right-of-way on the 400-acre Diamond B Ranch, though Negative Coggins papers are required at the front gate. ATVs and 4-wheelers are strictly forbidden.

The 1836 Chuck Wagon Race is sanctioned by the National Championship Chuckwagon Race and the Texas Chuckwagon Racing Association, for which Swanson serves as president. Swanson said the Texas race serves as a pre-qualifier for the National Championship Chuckwagon Race in Arkansas, the largest western event in the world.

The Diamond B Ranch is located at 11589 FM 321 in Neches.

From Palestine, take Texas 155 about seven miles to FM 321 and take a right. The ranch is located two miles down, where a Diamond B Ranch gate will be visible on the left.

For more information, contact Swanson at 903-721-9111 or visit or e-mail Event contestants can register on the website.

“It is a lot of fun, just a unique event unmatched by anything else you'll see in Texas,” Swanson said.



March 1 Saturday

7 a.m. Chuckwagon Race Gates Open

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 2 Sunday

10 a.m. 26-mile Trail Ride

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 3 Monday

10 a.m. Trail Ride

2 p.m. Herd dog demonstration

4 p.m. Colt starting demonstration

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 4 Tuesday

10 a.m. Trail Ride

1 p.m. Cowboy Mounted Shooting Clinic

4 p.m. Colt starting demonstration

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 5 Wednesday

10 a.m. Trail Ride

1 p.m. Cowboy Mounted Soccer

4 p.m. Dutch Oven Cooking Class

7 p.m. Cowboy Poetry

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 6 Thursday

10 a.m. Trail Ride

1 p.m. Barrel race clinic and competition

3 p.m. Hoof Care Clinic

7 p.m. Cowboy Poetry

8 p.m. Karaoke


March 7 Friday

10 a.m. Herd dog demonstration

1 p.m. 1836 Chuckwagon Race – 1st Performance

3 p.m. Texas Top Guns Shootout

4 p.m. Feedlot Sorting Competition

6 p.m. Calcutta Auction

8 p.m. Concert by Texas Rebellion


March 8 Saturday

10 a.m. Brazos Valley Equine Hospital Presentation

1 p.m. 1836 Chuckwagon Race – 2nd Performance

3 p.m. Texas Top Guns shootout

5 p.m. Horse, Mule and Wagon auction

8 p.m. Concert by the Kimberly Dunn Band


March 9 Sunday

10 a.m. Cowboy Church

1 p.m. 1836 Chuckwagon Race – 3rd Performance

4 p.m. Awards Presentation

8 p.m. Music in the Barn


March 10 Monday

6 p.m. Gates Close