By CHANSE WATSON
WALLACE — They probably are not the most commonly tied together themes in the history of festivals, but Huckleberries and Jeeps seemed to be a perfect match made in Wallace last weekend.
This year’s event was the 34th iteration of the Huckleberry festival, but only the second year in which a whole bunch of Jeeps have been involved as well.
Hosted jointly by the Historic Wallace Marketing Group and Dave Smith Motors, the combined festival appears to be one of the most successful to-date.
“Things were a little chaotic at first, but I think it all went very well overall,” said Brenda Johnson, Historic Wallace Market Group president. “From everybody that I’ve talked to, they’re saying that it was the best they’ve ever had since they’ve opened their business.”
This early chaos stemmed from an actually positive factor — new organizers. While having new people step up to run events such as this ensures that they continue into the future, replacing experience can sometimes be tricky.
Attendees didn’t seem to notice any problems though as the event drew an estimated 5,000 people into town over the weekend.
On the Huckleberry side of things, the usual activities were all present.
Those who brought out their furry friends had the opportunity to enter them into the Huckleberry Hound Contest on Friday. Dog owners collected donations from those who liked their dog the best and whoever had the most money by the end of Saturday earned the title of Huckleberry Hound.
Saturday morning kicked off with the traditional 5K Walk/Run starting at Fourth and Pine streets. This year’s run sported 190 runners and walkers with many of them being children. This number is an improvement over last year’s number of 146 participants.
The run was followed by the Huckleberry Pie Eating Contest where contestants 12 years old and under mowed down on pies to earn what people at HuckFest think of as a badge of honor — a purple face.
As far as vendors, all the Huckleberry themed booths were set up on Cedar Street to the west side of Sixth Street. Sixth Street itself hosted live music and food vendors in the downtown area.
To the east of Sixth Street was where the Jeep-themed fun was centered, as Dave Smith Motors and proud Jeep owners lined the streets with vehicles. Dave Smith hosted a Jeep Show and contest that recognized several different Jeeps for various categories such as best classic or best beater. Awards were given to first through third-place finishers, as well as a best overall people’s choice award.
The Jeep fun carried on outside downtown Wallace, as well with Jeep Runs and an obstacle course.
More than 60 Jeeps participated in the runs in the wilderness around town. The course was held across from the Wallace Chamber of Commerce office.
Participants in the obstacle course, also held across from the Wallace Chamber office, drove their Jeeps onto a large teeter-totter with the goal of finding their center of balance and keeping the platform level as long as they could. They would then drive over to the single-wheel ramp to test how much “flex” their Jeep had.
Dave Smith representative Mary Kae Repp was pleased with the Jeep events and estimates that they doubled the number of participants in the Jeep Show compared to last year.
With two groups of people coming together for the joint festival, Johnson believes that they may have made some new returning attendees and expect next year to be even bigger.
“It was a really great weekend for the whole community,” she said.
Johnson would also like to thank the community and all the volunteers who made the event possible.
5K Fun Run winners:
1st — James Primmer, 20.23
2nd — Chris Lund, 21.24
3rd — Bryan Humphrey, 21.42
1st — Jen Rudder, 21.45
2nd — Kate Lund, 21.48
3rd — Elaina Perry, 23.52