Cherry Chuck Challenge ready to roll, thanks to huge volunteer effort

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Human powered chuck wagons will compete at the Fall Fair.

It has been a massive under-taking, but more than a year of planning comes to fruition on Saturday, when 10 custom-made and –designed human-powered chuckwagons will compete for the first time at the Fall Fair.

The Cherry Chuck Challenge features 10 scaled-down human-powered chuckwagons that are raced in figure-8 patterns around barrels, “Just like professional chuckwagon events, in which the events are timed and penalties are awarded for barrels that are knocked down,” founder Mike Fitzpatrick said on Friday.

Fitzpatrick brought the idea to Creston when he became enthused about the work being done at Spectrum Farms, which is developing on what was known as the Endicott Centre property.

“It’s my dream that the entire community will come together and support a worthy charitable organization that needs a little TLC,” he said. “This charitable organization has been largely supported and run by Eric Kutzner and his wife Donna, who are in their 70s and have been recognized by the Governor General for a ‘caring award’. They volunteer all their time to make things a little bit better for those people that need our help.  They don’t make a dime doing it. They have a work ethic that makes people 20 years younger wonder how they do what they do.”

Part of the Spectrum Farms (under the umbrella of Kootenay Region Association of Community Living) strategic plan includes repurposing the Cedar Linden building, which could cost more than $1 million.

That’s where the Cherry Chuck Challenge comes in. Fitzpatrick wants to make it a Kootenay-wide event, with the rollout event at this weekend’s Creston Valley Fall Fair a stepping stone to bigger things.

He chose the chuckwagon concept after speaking with Creston Museum manager Tammy Bradford and learning that the Huscroft family first arrived in the Kootenays aboard wagons

“No pictures of their wagons exist,” he said, “but part of a wagon wheel that was said to have come from one of the Huscroft wagons does exist. It is small, not what I was expecting.

“After more research and help from Tammy in gathering a bunch of names of wagon collectors and builders, she pointed out a picture of a man driving a wagon in the Blossom Festival parade. That led me to George Huscroft, our first volunteer.”

Huscroft offered to build a chuckwagon similar to the one his granddad built back in the late 1800s.

“Others I met with offered advice, history and encouragement, which was very inspiring.”

Eventually, a design was created, and laminated wood wheels were designed to fit into bicycle rims and tires, so that the wagons would be operable on grass surfaces, like Alex Nilsson Field at the Community Complex, or on asphalt.

The next challenge was raising money for construction.

“Our first sponsor was BC Tree Fruit Ltd.,  because we incorporated the cherry bin to save on the cost of construction. The wagon debuted at the Fall Fair Farmers Market in September, 2015.” Eventually, about $2,700 in costs and 1,200 man hours of volunteer time would allow the project to carry on.

“I presented the idea to a College of the Rockies.  Instructors Tim Ross and Ken McKay in the welding department wanted to help but knew it would take months down the road because of schedules. They introduced me to the dean of trades, Dr. Jack Moes and the communications and marketing manager, Heather Jackson.  They believed the idea to be sound and a build schedule (was arranged) for four or possibly five frames, if students and instructors would volunteer extra time out of their academic schedule.

“In order for us to do this we needed to find a volunteer that would do CAD’s for us.

An old friend of mine, Gary Stein did the computer drawings and Bob Griffith from Griffith Surveys was able to print the drawings for the instructors at both the college and the high school.

“The woodwork needed for the construction of 10 wagons came from Justin Storm and J.H. Huscroft Ltd.  Once that was delivered to PCSS, Shane Ducharme, instructor in the woodshop, got his students involved.

“Finishing metal work for both wheels and trim was Todd Houghton instructor in metal welding at PCSS.

“Parts of the suspension was donated by Bill Dewald at Lordco here in Creston.

“Gerry Storm and all the guys at Comfort Welding helped us with discounts and free labor that went into the building of 5 more frames. They also provided axles and hubs.

“Lionel Gartner from the Ramada Creston Hotel helped us with fifth-wheel design and history.

“Rob Schepers from Home Hardware helped with materials like plywood, screws, and stain.

“Special thanks for efforts made by Steve Klymochko from Windsor Plywood in Cranbrook, which donated all the laminate banding and glue which saved us over $7,000, and helped us get wagons ready for the Sam Steele Parade in Cranbrook.”

It’s been a huge challenge to get the Cherry Chuck Challenge to this point, but Fitzpatrick credits community support.

“Everybody that we asked for help from has said Yes, because they want to help persons with disabilities and be part of a better community,” he said. “If one of these people had told us no, we wouldn’t be here now.”

The effort continues.

“In fact we still need lots of help. Lots and Lots of help. KES has helped us with direction and advice and we were able to make a device that will easily facilitate the donations.  Warren Bruns has helped us develop a web site that will enable people to make a monthly donation or a onetime donation through Canada Helps link. It automatically will issue a tax receipt for any donation over $25.

“This event coming up at Fall Fair is the start of Spectrum Farms and KRACL fundraiser.

“We have 25-30 local businesses sponsoring wagon tarps and now all we need is people in the community that will pull for their community by pulling all the wagons.  They can register with a team by going to or show up at the Community Complex on Friday September 9 between 4 and 7.30.”


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