Photography · Quesnel · Real LIfe

Crash, burn, pass, Cariboo hillbilly-style

Of course, one of the first things I wanted to do once I arrived in Quesnel was to see friends I’d last seen in 2014. The second was to attend “Billy Barker Days” events, the first of which was taking place on the Thursday evening – Crash to Pass.

Quesnel’s Billy Barker Days is a family festival that takes place for four days on the third weekend of July every year. It includes free events in the town’s main park, a carnival with rides for the kids, dances, a parade, rodeo and aforementioned Crash to Pass.

This fits right in to the hillbilly culture of this region in the Cariboo – a bunch of wild drivers racing around a tiny racetrack trying to run everyone off the track as spectacularly as possible! It had been raining all day and was still pretty gross and wet when we arrived at the track through the muddy parking lot.

I only have a wide-angle, 50mm and macro lens with me on this trip, so I realised immediately that I would get no interesting shots from the embankment overlooking the track without a zoom. I needed to be in the centre – at the heart of the action. I took a friend and his son along for moral support and picked my way across to the pits, wearing my ubiquitous sandals, shorts, t-shirt and ball cap. Of course, I was stopped as I set foot in the pits by an old guys sporting a large moustache and ear muffs.

“You can’t be here looking like that!” he scolded me. “Where are your long pants and steel-tipped boots?”

What if there was a fire and we had to cut off your pants to save you,” he continued. “We’d have nothing to cut off except your legs.

I liked his logic, but just shrugged and grinned my imbecilic grin. “I’m a photographer from South Africa,” I answered, as if that would make all the difference. (I learned that technique while living in France. It was a winner there.)

Amazingly, it did seem to work because he pointed out the long-haired, skinny, boss-man and told me to get permission from him.

Before I could, the walrus with ear muffs called him over.

“This idiot in shorts wants to take photos from the pits looking like this,” he started …

“Again, I was given a grilling, which ended with, “Who are you here with?”

I figured my friend who was standing behind me with his son, pretending not to know me, wouldn’t be of any help, so I pulled out my trump card: “I’m taking photos for Dave.” He also wears sandals to work, just by the way, I thought to myself. (Dave owns the local concrete company and sponsors the racing in a large way. His son also happened to be racing that day too.)

And that was all the boss-man needed to hear. I was in. Given free rein in the pits. Me in my shorts and sandals. Everyone else in their safety work wear.

“Be careful,” he called after me, as I left to start shooting the hillbillies and their crazy cars.

For now, here are a few photos. I’ll feature one specific driver tomorrow.

(Click on images below.)

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