For four years, Wayne Wark has been making his way down to Barriere to check out the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo. Although there are plenty of exciting events that take place to get the crowd going wild at the fair, the one that drew his attention is the lawnmower races.
Last year, Wark and Charlie Kimmie, a close friend of his, decided to build a pair of lawnmowers and get in on the action.
They managed to get their vehicles completed in time and raced them in Barriere this year.
“It was just a hoot,” Wark said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
He says no money was involved, other than a couple bucks to cover insurance, but the bragging rights were just as important to everybody.
Wark’s wife, Julie, and Kimmie’s wife, Deedee, even took turns racing the tractors themselves.
“What amazes me is how the crowd gets into it,” Wark says. “It’s just amazing!
“They are fairly close and when you’re racing, the tractors are close to one another at times and everyone watching is cringing and saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’
“They’re looking for a wreck, but that doesn’t happen very often.”
These aren’t your typical lawnmowers. Wark’s vehicle has a snowmobile engine, which can propel it to speeds exceeding 100 kilometres per hour. However, he says it typically doesn’t go much faster than 45 to 50 km/hr when on the race track, which is typically a dirt oval about the same size as a rodeo ground.
Tractors of varying classes will race around the oval and drift through the turns to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
Wark says the racing is becoming popular in the Okanagan and the Kootenays, where clubs have been created.
He says he wants to be the person to bring it to Quesnel.
“It’s getting started in 100 Mile House, so I was thinking, ‘Why can’t Quesnel do something like this?’ We just need to get it out there.”
He has already approached a few friends about hunkering down in their respective backyard shops and building tractors over the winter months and believes he could convince a few contacts he’s made at races this summer to make their way to town.
Now all he needs is an event.
“I want to go to the Billy Barker Days people and say, ‘Look, we need something exciting and new that’ll get people interested.’ Right now we’ve got Crash to Pass, but that’s it.”
He points to the success of the event in Barriere, where there were only six tractors racing in the first event he went to. That ballooned to 29 at this year’s event.
“I think I could get eight or 10 from in town and as many as 15 from out of town, and then we’ve got a show. And that’s what it’s all about – a show for the people that we can have fun doing too.”