Under the big blue Bristol Freighter, a pack of trucks and cars rev their engines. They race past one another, kicking up gravel along the way, and rocket off a jump high into the air.
No, it’s not a monster truck rally. It’s a normal Sunday afternoon for the Radio Control Enthusiasts of Yellowknife, formed by Benjamin Brown and friends two years ago.
Brown has been having fun with radio-controlled or RC vehicles for more than 30 years.
“I love creating things. I love building the next biggest thing and the next best thing,” he said. “I also really like helping people fulfil their own dreams and fulfil what they want to make.”
For Brown, his love of RC started with a wooden boat his grandfather handcrafted when he was three years old.
“It was the very first RC that I ever had my hands on,” he said.
“I followed in his footsteps and as I got older, I became a little bit more skilled at what I was building. My interests just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Terry Duggan, another founding member of the group, has long enjoyed RCs as a hobby. He has a dedicated “RC lab” in his home where he and other club members fix and build vehicles.
“It’s good for your mind, it challenges you to build stuff. It’s Yellowknife: you’ve got to have your hobbies up here,” he said. “This is a good one. You get all winter to build them inside.”
Over the past two years, Duggan said, the Yellowknife club has grown from a group of four friends to more than 70 members.
“It’s been amazing how many people have been coming out of the woodwork here, and how many RCs there actually are in town,” he said. “It feels like we’ve actually got a real club going now.”
Eleven-year-old Finley Stewart said his favourite part of the club is that everyone gets together and helps each other.
“It’s really fun. And it just fascinated me,” he said.
“Everybody here is showing me how to fix my RCs and stuff.”
The club isn’t just focused on trucks and cars. It brings together people with radio-controlled boats, robots, drones, airplanes – including a twin-engined plane with a 10-foot wingspan – and even a submarine.
Ben Baird is one of the group members who flies airplanes, helicopters and drones. It’s something he’s been doing since he was a teenager, when he would fly RC planes over Yellowknife’s sandpits with friends.
“I’m a pilot, so it’s fun to be part of the RC world of things as well,” he said.
He described the club as “a good group of guys that come out and do everything.”
On Sundays, after taking the “fast movers” out for a rip, the group brings out realistic scale-model trucks and rock crawlers for a walk behind Bristol Pit.
“We like to climb and play on the rocks and have fun,” Brown said.
People take pride in their vehicles, he explained, as each one has been modified or built from scratch.
“Every one of these machines is kind-of unique to the person who has it,” he said.
“Most of them have been customized and as people have broken things, the club’s helped them sort them out and get the next person going. I think that’s what I like the most about what we do: we all help each other out.”
“The sky’s the limit,” Brown said. “If it exists and moves, there’s people here in Yellowknife making RC of it.”
While the club is winding down outdoor activities as winter sets in, Brown said they’re always open to new members. They’re also working on finding a permanent space in the city, dedicated to RC.