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Brandonite among finalists as drama, tension builds on 'Handyman Challenge'

Mark Emrick of Brandon is one of the 16 finalists on the reality show “Canada’s Handyman Challenge” on HGTV.

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Mark Emrick of Brandon is one of the 16 finalists on the reality show “Canada’s Handyman Challenge” on HGTV.

Brandon will find out tonight if one of its own is handy enough to continue on the reality show "Canada’s Handyman Challenge."

Mark Emrick, 48, is one of 16 finalists on the HGTV reality show after surviving elimination in the first round.

The firefighter instructor with the Manitoba Fire and Emergency Services College was initially picked as one of the top 10 from the Winnipeg crowd with a wooden treasure chest beer cooler with a trap door that hides four beer glasses.

The hitch: each contestant could only use a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood for their entry.

Emrick’s project clearly wowed the panel of celebrity judges — Scott McGillivray of the show "Income Property," Bryan Baeumler of "Leave It to Bryan" and Paul Lafrance of "Decked Out."

"If you show up with a project that’s built well and there’s beer in it, you’re in," Baeumler said during Emrick’s first appearance on the show.

During the Winnipeg episode, filmed at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Emrick had to pass two other challenges to earn his finalist spot.

In the first challenge, Emrick and the other contestants had to build a sugar-bag-launching slingshot or catapult.

In the second, the self-proclaimed handymen had to build a go-cart out of an old canoe, old bikes and scraps of wood.

Both competitions were a struggle, but Emrick secured his spot in the top 16 on the show to go to Toronto.

The show was filmed last summer and Emrick couldn’t divulge any details about the show past the audition episode — and only he knows how he well he did on the show.

The former Melita volunteer firefighter gained his handyman knowledge after he was forced to do his own home renovations out of financial necessity.

"My dad was a pretty handy guy, so I learned lots from him as a kid and I kind of taught myself everything else as I went along," Emrick told the Sun.

He said he and his wife were avid fans of the TV show, now in its third season, and he didn’t have expectations to get as far as he did.

"It was kind of more of a joke I threw my name in there and they said I was in on the audition," he said.

With his prowess closely critiqued by judges while cameras surrounded him, the experience was daunting, he admitted.

"I was pretty nervous to a certain extent, but honestly, it’s kind of funny because it still seems a little surreal. Even when I watch it on TV and see myself on there, it just doesn’t seem to click," he said.

"It was a really good experience, made a lot of good friends out of it and stay in touch with most of the guys from Winnipeg and that part was good."

As the competition continues, finalists are thrown into skill-testing battles that push the limits of their creativity, resourcefulness and fundamental handyman knowledge. They’ll go from building an entire patio space to facing a one-on-one quiz with each judge, with unexpected twists thrown in along the way.

The season culminates in an impressive finale build, when Mike Holmes adds his expertise to the judging panel to award the winner of Canada’s Handyman Challenge with $25,000 and the title of "Canada’s Best Handyman."

The next episode airs on HGTV tonight at 9 p.m. when the audience finds out if Emrick stays on the show.

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 18, 2014

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Brandon will find out tonight if one of its own is handy enough to continue on the reality show "Canada’s Handyman Challenge."

Mark Emrick, 48, is one of 16 finalists on the HGTV reality show after surviving elimination in the first round.

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Brandon will find out tonight if one of its own is handy enough to continue on the reality show "Canada’s Handyman Challenge."

Mark Emrick, 48, is one of 16 finalists on the HGTV reality show after surviving elimination in the first round.

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