Fletcher helped start Spring Cruise Car Show
By Bert Lehman
For Dick Fletcher of Bear Creek, the discontinuation of the Beat the Heat program in Clintonville was disappointing, but he’s glad to have been a part of the program since the beginning.
“It kept a lot of kids focused and out of trouble, knowing that racing is a safe sport and it should be done in a safe environment,” he said.
Fletcher first became involved with the Beat the Heat program in 1995 when Clintonville Police Chief Terry Lorge invited him to the drag strip to see what he was doing with the kids in the program.
“I got hooked on it,” Fletcher said. “From that point until 2002 I was actively involved. It was just kind of a fun thing to see the kids interact with the cops.”
When asked what hooked him, Fletcher said, “I guess the noise, the cars, the kids, and just seeing the cops and the kids get along like normal people.”
Fletcher admitted drag racing was new to him, as he followed NASCAR racing prior to that. But after witnessing drag racing, Fletcher wanted to be involved.
“Just to see two cars go down the track side-by-side and the winner moves on, the loser goes home,” said Fletcher about what he enjoys about drag racing.
Soon after his introduction to drag racing, Fletcher said he combed through junk yards and found a Chevy S-10 pickup truck that he turned into a drag truck. He raced the truck for one season and then donated it to the Beat the Heat program.
“I decided to stay involved in the Beat the Heat and I donated the truck to the Beat the Heat program for the kids to race,” he said.
“It’s the same race vehicle we’ve had all along for the kids to drive,” Lorge added.
Prior to the drag truck being donated to the program, Lorge said the kids raced their own car, or their parent’s car. The cars had to pass a safety inspection first.
Lorge said the drag truck being donated to the program was “huge.”
“We couldn’t afford to get one for the kids even though we had some financial support from the community,” Lorge said. “… It was huge because it was certified. It passed tech inspection because it had a certified roll cage in it. We put a motor in it and went racing.”
Fletcher said he knew the truck belonged with the Beat the Heat program after saw the look on the faces of the kids when it was their turn on the track.
“I thought, ‘That’s where the truck belongs.’ I had no intentions of selling it or making money on it,” Fletcher said. “It was a good fit for the program. And seeing it was being put to good use I just decided they should have it.”
After seeing the kids race the truck, Fletcher knew he made the right decision.
“It was a great feeling, just knowing I built that truck and now all these kids are enjoying it,” Fletcher said. “And just to see them work on it and make improvements, it was a great feeling.”
After donating the drag truck, Fletcher stayed involved with the Beat the Heat program in other capacities. The program didn’t have enough vehicles to haul the race vehicle to the track, so Fletcher suggested the group build a two-vehicle trailer.
“We had a couple of students who were interested in welding and with me being a retired welder, I took the kids and got them set up and showed them how to do some welding,” Fletcher said. “They basically put the trailer together with my supervision. Terry was there to help out.”
Fletcher said it was very satisfying to work with the kids in the program.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.
The finished trailer was noticed by others.
“We towed this thing with two cars on it through downtown Chicago when we went to Chicago to race, and we had a Cook County cop come alongside of us and blip their siren and give us a thumbs up with these two racing police cars on the back,” Lorge said. “It was pretty cool stuff. It was a nice trailer. When we didn’t need it anymore we ended up selling it for a couple thousand dollars to fund other projects in the program.”
Lorge and Fletcher said the majority of the materials for the trailer were donated by local businesses. Prior to that Fletcher had also convinced his employer, Miller Electric, to donate a $1,200 welder to the program.
Since 2002, Fletcher said his involvement with Beat the Heat had been more focused on planning the spring car show, which was a fundraiser for the program. Prior to that fundraiser Fletcher said the group held brat fry events and car washes to raise money. He said he told Lorge the group needed to come up with a new fundraiser that didn’t involve working on a number of Saturdays.
That’s when the Spring Cruise Car Show was born.
Fletcher said that when the car show was first thought of, he thought it would get the entire community involved, as well as showcase what the Beat the Heat program was all about.
“It was a big hit, and it still is today,” Fletcher said.
He added that he’s glad the car show will continue, even with the discontinuation of the Beat the Heat program.
“I think to see the car show go away, that would be a disappointment to a lot of people,” he said.
Looking back at the Beat the Heat Program, Fletcher said his involvement in it was well worth the time and effort.