Winter Festival gala honours Gordy Sproull, voice of the dogsleds

The Prince Albert Winter Festival honoured Gordy Sproull as the 2020 honorary chair on Jan. 18, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Gordy Sproull is used to getting a crowd going.

Usually, though, they’re not cheering for him.

That changed Saturday night when Sproull was introduced as the 2020 honorary chairman of the Prince Albert Winter Festival.

The long-time volunteer was known as the voice of the dogsled races, calling the event for 51 years before retiring.

He also called rodeos, chuckwagons and stock car races. But rarely was he the subject of a standing ovation.

Saturday, he got two.

“It gives you a great feeling. It makes your life worthwhile,” Sproull said after the warm reception from the crowd gathered at the annual Tux ‘N Touqes Gala.

“I always seem to have a good crowd, to hold a crowd. I’ve always kept their attention. That’s the name of the game. I enjoy every bit of it.”

Sproull is this year’s honorary chair, joining previous honourees John Kushneryk, Paul Lomheim and Wes Stubbs. The honorary chair is recognized each year at the Tux ‘N Toques Gala, which also serves as a sort of unofficial kick-off event a month or two ahead of the actual festival’s start date.

Sproull said he felt slightly out of place Saturday night in his jet-black tuxedo. He’s usually a cowboy-boots-and-hat type of guy.

“I didn’t know I was worthy of it, but I guess I was,” Sproull said. “This is a great honour to me.”

He was always happy to help out the festival

“They got me back every year for 51 years. I was quite happy. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you can do a good job. If you feel you can do a good job, go for it because if you’re the only one who can get behind it and help out people that are always there.”

Sproull emphasized that he was just one of many volunteers who would give their time to make the Winter Festival a success. He recognized several others who were in attendance Saturday.

Gordy Sproull speaks at the 2020 Tux ‘N Toques Gala on Jan. 18, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

He recognized several others who were in attendance Saturday. That included Kushneryk, Dennis Adams, Lawrence Joseph and this year’s president Bev Erickson.

“I never wanted to let anybody down,” he said, thinking back on his 50 plus years of service to the winter festival.

“Lots of times, I might have felt low, but anyhow I’d be out there and give them a hand all I could. Volunteers are really welcome. We need lots of them all the time to keep things going. It’s always that ungodly dollar that a person wants, but volunteers — it’s a great honour.”

Sproull’s wife passed away about a year and a half ago. Instead, he attended the event with his brother.

“(Losing my wife) was a real downer for me,” he said.

“If you’ve got family and good friends you can get over anything.”

He paused.

“You never get over it and you shouldn’t but it eases the pain a lot when you’ve got a family that sticks by you. We’re a close family. We always stick together and it helps.”

As he is also getting older, Sproull also appreciated the charity selected to receive the proceeds from Saturday’s Gala — the Rose Garden Hospice.

“That’s going to be a big thing for Prince Albert,” he said.

“For people up in the years — I know what that is because I’m coming (turning) 87 on the fifth of February — I know what it is to come up there. (The hospice) is a great thing to have. Prince Albert needs it, that’s for sure. Anybody that gets behind it, your money is well spent.”

Gordy Sproull, right, dances with MLA Nadine Wilson at the 2020 Tux ‘N Toques Gala. Sproull has known Wilson her whole life and is friends with her family, he said. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Now, with the gala behind him, Sproull’s next focus will be representing the winter festival during the two-week-long event.

“I just go as a spectator now,” he said.

Two things stand out.

“I always liked country and western music. I’m a cowboy at heart. The Country North Show is always my favourite show,” he said.

“They’ve got good talent they bring in. They get good crowds. Stuff like that keeps the winter festival going. I hope it goes on.”

This year’s festival, in addition to the Country North Show, also has a Country North Reunion Show which will feature singers from past years of Country North Shows, including special guests. It is currently set for Plaza 88 on Feb. 22.

 While Sproull likes his country music, there’s one part of the festival that will always be close to his heart.

“I enjoyed announcing the dogs. I know the mushers all enjoyed it,” he said.

“I got to know them pretty well, personally. I always got a great honour too when I used to give the trophies at the end. They enjoyed every bit of it.”

 The dog sled races were always a highlight for Sproull. That hasn’t changed.

“It still is.”