By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Beginning in 1979, the annual event known as Challenge in the Hills kicked off on Route 93 in Davis on approximately 10 acres of Western Pocahontas property. In 1987, the event relocated to Parsons on what is now approximately 25 acres and boasts several amenities to host the event. Drivers and spectators come from multiple states to compete on the drag strip or attempt to barrel through the mud pit to test their four wheel drive against others in their class. For the first time since the event began 41 years ago, the event has been cancelled with hopes of returning for the 41 annual race on Memorial Day Weekend of 2021.
Tammy Carr, treasurer of the Tucker County 4-Wheelers Inc. club, works diligently each year to ensure the event is a success. Carr confirmed that, though they had to evacuate one year on Saturday due to dangers of the river rising, they returned on Sunday to conclude the event. “This is the very first time it’s ever been totally shut down,” confirmed Carr.
This decision did not come lightly. “I had contacted the Health Department and talked to them and plus we’d been talking to the Governor’s Office to see if there was any way possible,” said Carr. “The Governor’s Office pretty much said to us Sunday we could have it without spectators, but we can’t,” she added. The spectator fees are what the club uses to host the event and without an audience, there is no way for the race to take place. “What we take in is how we pay for everything,” Carr explained.
Another concern was the high demand on supplies and whether all items needed would be able to be purchased for the event. Items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, napkins, and other supplies have been difficult to come by or individuals, let alone purchase in bulk amounts. Fortunately, items had not started to be purchased at the time of the shut down, however work to prepare the track had already begun.
Uncertainties continued to pile up with the question of cleaning and disinfecting the portable bathroom facilities to ensure the safety of everyone. “It was making it hard to decide how to keep us safe and how to keep the public safe, same as what everybody else is going through,” stated Carr. If allowed per Governor Justice’s orders, the fall club get together is hopeful to be held, but this is for members only, not a public race.
With the long history of this iconic event, it has always drawn a large crowd making it near impossible to maintain a six foot social distancing standard and still able to view the race. Understanding that weather has a great effect on the turn out, Carr explained, on average, the event drew in anywhere from 70 to 85 drag racers, 60 to over 100 mud bog contestants, and 20 to 35 junior dragsters. The Tucker County 4-wheelers Club membership is currently around 50 members as well, drawing in large crowds for the entire weekend.
Carr, along with everyone else, hopes to pick up next year with the 41 Annual Challenge in the Hills event on Memorial Day weekend, 2021. To follow the club events and information, you can follow the Challenge in the Hills event page and Tucker County 4-wheelers group on Facebook as well as on Twitter and Instagram.