About 500 folks visited Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday to enjoy a spectacle new to town — lawnmower races.
For several hours, racers with the Rebels and Rednecks United Mower Association chased each other around the newly installed track at the park to the delight of the crowd gathered on the hill side.
Before the races started at 7 p.m., organizers of the event, which was rescheduled after an Aug. 9 rain delay, had their fingers crossed.
“We weren’t sure if we’d be able to pull it off,” said Anthony Thorpe, park supervisor. “The community came through,” with donations “and just labor,” he said. “Everybody stepped up.”
The evening kicked off when the announcers requested a crowd volunteer to sing the national anthem.
Friends of Mary Hawks, of Mount Airy, volunteered her for the job.
“Everybody got quiet, she sang, and that was glorious right there,” Thorpe said. Things seemed to take care of themselves once the racing got started.
Kids played on the hill behind the newly erected bleachers while folks watched from the stands or lawn chairs.
Most websites on the subject give credit to a 1963 Indiana race as the first sanctioned lawnmower racing event in the United States.
A track at the Wilkes County Agricultural Fairground facility has drawn a steadily increasing crowd since the first race was held there in 1984.
The Veterans Memorial Park board, which consists of members from local posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, had been tossing around the idea of putting a track in Mount Airy for a couple of years.
“We’ve been looking at ways to bring extra income into the park,” said Gary Willard, of the park board.
Racers, who have a need to tinker as well as a need for speed, remove the cutting blades on the mowers, modify the engines and race them Grand-Prix style.
“I was expecting lawn mowers,” Thorpe said, referring to the Saturday morning, cut the grass variety. What occurred Saturday was an entirely different situation.
“These guys are wide open, ripping it up out there,” said Thorpe. “It’s awesome.”
Austin Richardson, a racer from Sparta, watched the races after his mower quit.
“It’s a good track,” he said. “It felt good.”
A race for children was held during the intermission. Any kids in attendance were invited down on the track to race on foot while pushing small plastic lawnmowers. All participants were welcome to a treat from a goody bag.
Racers driving four-wheelers also performed an exhibition during the intermission and will probably be added to the park’s race programming in the future, along with other types of motor sports.
“We’re seeing a lot of potential,” Thorpe said.
“I hope this keeps up,” said Hawks, who offered to sing at future events. “It’s real fun.”
The next racing event will be held at the park on Sept. 17, on the last day of the Surry County Agricultural Fair.
"Best seat in the house," Andrews said.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.