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A volunteer experiences race mania

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I spent a good part of Saturday at the Kentucky Speedway as a volunteer for the Carroll County Animal Support Group. Our volunteers manned the tram stops Friday evening and from 8 a.m. till 9 p.m. Saturday. 

It was an easy job, but oh so hot. I must say, I have never seen people work so hard to have fun.

Cheri Martin and I rode up to the track together, arriving around 7:30 a.m. and driving right in, parking beneath the Kentucky Tower. Almost immediately, my car was surrounded by folks unfolding tents and staking them into the ground, and hauling out grills, coolers, lounge chairs, and corn hole thing-a-ma-jigs.

We felt pretty useless for a while, standing around in our khaki pants and white collared shirts, as no one from the track showed up till 9:15 to sign us up and give us our assignments. It was 10:15 before I arrived at Tram Stop 3, where I was to be hospitable, keep folks off the blacktop and help them board the trams.

It was an easy task, and I enjoyed meeting and talking with so many people. I know little to nothing about NASCAR. (Is the old Florence Speedway where I used to go watch stock car races with Daddy an ancestor to the speedway?  Or did it begin with “Thunder Road,” a movie about Junior Johnson, a folk hero when I lived in the deep South?)

I was surprised at how many people were from Owensboro; they told me of Darrell Waltrip and his role in bringing the race to Sparta.  (Who would ever have guessed that Sparta, Ky., would be mentioned repeatedly on national television? Well, maybe for Sparta ham, but that reputation is just regional.)

We had one main problem. Eight trams were simply not enough to carry the crowd flowing from the parking lots to the eight tram stops encircling the track.  I kept seeing lone individuals driving big golf carts, but seldom did any of them give rides. I tried to flag one down, as I had Miss Kentucky Speedway at my stop.  She was already late for a public appearance, and trams were either late or full. He shouted that he was for wheelchairs, but I never saw him with one.

I was astounded by many things Saturday. Once again, I ask: If the economy is so bad, where do all of these people come from? One man I talked with told me of his motor home, which he had parked on the Back Stretch for a $4,000 investment – plus, he paid for six tickets to the race. There were thousands of campers, trailers and motor homes all over the hills surrounding the track – in some cases, as far as the eye could see.

Having had no bathroom break or food since I left home at 6:50, I was ready to leave by 2:30 when my shift ended. Cheri and I met up, managed to get on a tram and ride to near where the car was parked.  Once we got there, though, I realized there was no way to get out of the maze of grills, tent stakes, corn hole things and more than one gentleman asleep on a lounge.

 After watching me try, with Cheri directing, one young man offered to get the car clear of the major obstructions.  He was successful; the crowd applauded, and I hugged him and told him he was my hero.

“And I’ve only had 18 beers,” he replied. I guess I was lucky.

Cheri and I made it back to Carrollton easily after that, driving in an opposite direction from hundreds upon hundreds of cars just sitting in traffic. We left via the new road that goes directly over Markland Dam, and the line of cars waiting to get to the speedway was very nearly to that point.  I heard later on the news that U.S. 42 was backed up all the way to Carrollton. 

Later a friend and I called Jewell’s from her house in Madison, Ind., to find out how the crowds were at the restaurant in Warsaw. We thought we might go there for dinner.  “We are dead,” she said, but added, “Don’t bother; you can’t get here for the traffic.”

Many of our volunteers, as well as ticket holders to the race, never made it to the track later in the day.

While I have not yet talked to her, I bet Tammie Crawford was there all day and half the night.  She is the patron saint of the dogs and cats around here. I do hope people know how tirelessly she works to care for them and to find homes and medical attention for the homeless. 

When I volunteered I told her I would do what I could, but that I was old, fat, and my feet hurt.  Tammie does not give in to her aches and pains.  She’s there for our furry friends every day, and we all have reason to thank her.

 

Jarrett Boyd is a Carrollton resident and former director of the Carroll County Public Library.