There will be drag races at the Campbell Hill airstrip on the weekend of Aug. 24, but organizer Dwight Toews of Thunder in the Valley Raceway says that at times it has been “trying” to work with the Village of Cache Creek.
“Some aspects of working with the Village have been a little over the top,” he says. “We’re just trying to get this up and running, and I hope they understand that. They’ve stepped up a bit, but it’s been a trying thing.”
Toews and a committee made up of volunteers spent six weeks getting the airstrip ready for drag races for the Graffiti Days weekend in June, bringing drag racing back to the area for the first time since 2015. The event was a success, with 132 cars taking part and more than 1,500 people attending the three-day event.
The plan was to follow up with a second event in late August, and at a meeting on July 17 Cache Creek council voted to approve the event, but with several conditions. Toews says those conditions have been, or will be, met, including a request to increase the amount of insurance from $2 million to $5 million.
Another request was that the tower—donated by the Ashcroft Rodeo Association—be moved, as it is currently too close to the end of the airstrip, prompting a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) warning for the Campbell Hill airstrip.
Toews says that the NOTAM can be extended to take it past the Aug. 24 event, adding that the plan is to build a trailer under the tower so that it is mobile and can be moved.
“The tower must be 30 metres from the track [for flight purposes], but realistically it needs to be right next to the laneway [during races] so we can communicate with people at the starting gate. The trailer would mean we can move it back to the track for events.”
Racers from all over B.C. and as far afield as Alberta have expressed interest in, or registered for, the August races, says Toews, and people who were at the June event have said they will be coming back, even though other events are going on at the same time.
“We’re getting new people, and more posters and announcements are going out. It could be even bigger than the Graffiti Days event.”
Toews says that the are trying to get more locals to come out and participate, as racers and spectators.
“We’re trying to get more locals motivated to get off the couch and come out. It’s a lot of fun, and we want people to check it out. It’s pretty cheap entertainment in a secure, sanctioned area with clear perimeters to keep people safe.”
There has not been any additional work undertaken at the site since June, and Toews says they want to get the August event under their belts before (hopefully) working through the fall to do more asphalt work and smooth down the track for next year. He adds that it’s hoped the August races will create revenue that will be put back into the track.
“We want to make the races bigger and better each time. We want to encourage people to move here; young families who will help us grow. We need entertainment for young families. We’ve lost so much over the years, and have to find ways to bring things back.”
Toews notes that there will be a committee meeting at the end of August, adding that he wants to see how many people are prepared to commit time to allow drag races at Campbell Hill to continue.
“We need key personnel in the tower and on the track who understand all the workings of the race track to ensure we have no glitches at all, and that everything is done in the safest way possible.
“We want people to go home at the end of the day saying ‘We had a great day,’ We don’t want to overwork people, who are putting their heart and soul into it. We’re looking for anyone who wants to step in and be a part of a growing event in this area; something that’s going to be entertainment for everyone.”
Toews says that he hopes to have time boards up for next year, so that spectators can see what each car does in each lane: their time, as well as miles per hour. “We tried to announce during each race, but stuff comes up and things get missed. A scoreboard at the end of the track, so that everyone could see what the drivers did, would enhance the experience.”
He adds that the committee is trying to work on requests from the Village of Cache Creek, but notes that they’re all volunteers, and not a professional group.
“I understand that there are things we need to follow through with to make things happen. There have been some stumbling blocks, but we’re working through them as a group.
“Sometimes I ask myself why we’re doing this. It’s not for myself. I get nothing out of this. With all the work I do I don’t have much time to watch and enjoy the races. I’m too busy running around. I’m just trying to bring community events back here and motivate people to come out and get together. That’s the biggest thing.”
Toews says that after the June races, the committee made a donation to the Sage and Sands Pony Club when they did clean-up work, and plans to make a donation to the Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Department, as members donated their time and equipment to help out.
“I wish the Village of Cache Creek could see all the aspects of what we’re trying to do here. Some [members of council] do, some don’t.
“We put a lot of hard work into making this happen. We wanted to help out Graffiti Days, which has seen a drop in attendance since the drag races stopped.
“Not as many people were coming out for a one-day event. People didn’t come for the whole weekend, because there wasn’t enough to carry them through.
“I wish that council would understand that we’re doing our best to move forward.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer to help with drag races at Campbell Hill can contact Toews at (250) 457-3224.