What a glorious day for a show.
Bright June sunshine, and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, brought out a huge crowd to Saturday’s “Cars in the Hills” at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
Ninety-eight classic models, from the 1920s to the 2000s, were on display, gleaming proudly in the main parking area near the entrance.
They created a multi-coloured mosaic amid the deep, verdant green of grass and wooded hills, made more vibrant by recent rain.
It is a busy spot most weekends, with Dar’s Little Dipper on one side, selling multiple flavours of ice-cream, and the swimming pool close-by, along with Loch Leven, whose shimmering surface is regularly ruffled by kayakers and canoeists.
The 10am-4pm car show – the park’s first major event of the summer – provided added excitement, pulling in people who planned to make a day of it in the hills; among them were many from Maple Creek.
Over the years, the Creek Classic Auto Club’s show has proved an annual crowd-pleaser.
Unfortunately, the 2019 edition was called off because of rain, while COVID killed last year’s event.
As if to make up for those disappointments, exhibitors and spectators came together in extra-big numbers at the weekend, delighting organizers.
Maple Creek’s Rick Anton, club president, said normally 70 or 80 cars would be on display.
“I think people today just wanted to come out and enjoy themselves after the tough year we’ve all experienced,” he told the News-Times.
Exhibitors arrived from all over the region, including Regina, Saskatoon, Outlook, Medicine Hat and Swift Current. In the past, the public have been asked to nominate winners in various categories. Not this year, however. For the organizers, it was enough simply to hold an event.
“Maybe we will bring back awards next year,” said Wayne Burton, well-known as a Maple Creek firefighter.
So what constitutes a classic car? Age may be one factor, but it is certainly not the only one.
“It is a broad definition,” agreed Anton, whose sporty looking 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird was on display. “I think classic is in the eyes of the beholder.”
Anton has always been interested in cars and what people do to fix them up.
Near Anton’s Firebird was another Pontiac, this one dating from 1934, belonging to Bernie and Judy Niska, from Outlook.
According to a sign resting against the fender, the convertible roadster boasts several “cool” features: 5.7 Corvette LT1; 375 horse power; 4L60E 4 speed trans.; C4 Corvette independent, suspension front and rear; and paintwork that includes jade metallic green and black fenders.
Bernie said he bought the car after seeing it in a Pontiac magazine. He flew out to Seattle, Washington, to meet the owner, who turned out to be a “Buick guy”.
After the purchase, Bernie chromed the car up and changed the steering wheel. It is now an exciting addition to his collection of classic models, numbering four.
The Sandor family’s bright yellow 1955 Chev (farm truck) was impossible to miss at the show. In 2003, Ed and his son, David, acquired the vehicle from a neighbour for $100.
“It was abandoned and we fixed it up,” Ed said. “We wanted to get it ready in time for David’s graduation in 2004.”
After flipping through a photo album, Ed points to an image of a smartly dressed young man in front of a spruced-up Chev – proof that they met the deadline.
“I like the design of classic cars. They are old and simple and easy to work on,” said Ed, from Consul.
Another eye-catching car was Milt Pancoast’s 1950 Chev (3100 model), its bronze paintwork sparkling in the sunlight.
For the retired Medicine Hat greenhouses owner, the vehicle was the result of a lengthy labour of love.
“When I found it, it was a clunker in a farmer’s field. It took five years to build it,” he said, adding: “The project is still ongoing. Last year, for instance, I swapped the motor.”
Pancoast, who has three other classic cars, said the Chev had attracted a positive response.
“I think the colour helps,” he laughed.
Ken Coulter, from Elrose, admits that doing up classic cars is a kind of addiction. The extensive work he has carried out on his 1955 Chev is proof of this.
“I started work on it 10 years ago,” he said.
Carrying out such a restoration comes naturally to Coulter, who describes himself as semi-retired.
“I was a body man for 50 years,” he said. “I do a lot of custom work.”
Gull Lake-born Cory Johnston, from Medicine Hat, is another restoration addict.
His 1930 Ford Model A Coupe, on display on Saturday, was “built from scratch six years ago” and has now joined several other hotrods in the garage at his home.
“I just love building old cars from the 1930s and 1920s,” he said. “I love the style and shape.”
It is a passion probably shared by the other 97 exhibitors.
Well before 4pm, the first of the cars engines began to rev as owners contemplated the drive home. For many, a lengthy journey awaited.
For all those who spoke to the News-Times, the visit had been well worth the travel time, especially after the tribulations of the last 18 months. And especially to such a picturesque destination.