All the familiar sights and sounds of a drag race are there: the roar of the engine, the enthusiastic hoots of the crowd on the sidelines, the swirling tires kicking up dust as they make their way towards the line. arrival.
However, these drivers do not go full speed on bloated sports cars. They’re on riding lawn mowers, ranging from standard stock mowers (though, based on the excitement of the crowds, you’d never guess) to expert-modified machines demolishing the track at 40 mph.
It’s a way for the Thunder Valley Mower Racing Club of Lincolnville to satisfy their need for speed – and it’s become a local phenomenon in doing so.
The Mainers are no strangers to the races of weird and wonderful homemade crafts, from lobster boats to pumpkin carved canoes. The mowers fall in that same original spirit, but with an added level of accessibility. Many Mainers already have mowers – some may even use them for work – so weekend drag races are a perfect way to use what you already have to let off steam.
“It’s cheap and fun entertainment,” said Aaron Boetsch, Thunder Valley Mower Racing club president. “You don’t need to invest a lot of money. Guys who have lawn care businesses can mow on Fridays, unload on Saturdays, and compete. ”
Boetsch started Thunder Valley Mower Racing after leaving the military in 2010. He was bored at home and surfing the web when he came across videos of Midwest lawn mower drag racing. Inspired, he and a few friends took their mowers out of their garages and started running in Boetsch’s father’s garden.
“We started off with all the local guys first, just word of mouth,” Boetsch said. “People kept coming to see us and started to bring [their own mowers]. ”
Between the crowd and new riders, Thunder Valley Mower Racing quickly passed its backyard track. Boetsch started looking for local sponsors who would offer them a few hundred dollars for t-shirts and other merchandise and for larger sites to organize their lawn mower races.
Thunder Valley Mower Racing began running races at the Union Fair and renting the fairground track when the fair was not taking place. Last year, Boetsch said the group held three races at the Union Fair with between 300 and 400 spectators.
“It’s a huge number of people to come forward for something like this,” Boetsch said.
The equipment has also evolved. Boetsch and his friends may have started racing with regular lawn mowers, but now Thunder Valley Mower Racing offers different classes for puffy mowers, ranging from small modifications to the “outlaw class” where even the motor can be replaced.
Of course, they also put safety measures in place along the way, such as requiring helmets, closed shoes, and safety clips attached to mower stop switches.
In addition to the fairs, Thunder Valley Mower Racing has also hosted races on frozen ponds and, for the past two years, has held regular events at Threshers Brewing Co. in Searsmont.
“Whenever we mention [the races], it makes people smile, ”said brewery owner Nicole Bendston. “It’s just a little different and light and it looks kinda funny.”
While Bendston said there are regulars looking for the event, she also sees new faces every time they host a mower race.
“During the summer people from out of state come to the show and say to themselves, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen anything like it,’” Boetsch said.
Social media allowed the group to reach more members and followers. Briar Lyons is the secretary of Thunder Valley Mower Racing, which has over 800 members in its Facebook group.
Boetsch also credits members like Neil Greenleaf for the group’s rise in popularity. Greenleaf is a YouTuber with over 100,000 subscribers on his channel, RedneckComputerGeek, where, for more than a decade, he has been repairing, restoring and modifying mowers in ATVs and others. He started racing with Thunder Valley Mower Racing two years ago.
Greenleaf has launched a channel specifically for lawn mower racing called RCG races, which has nearly 3,000 subscribers.
Boetsch hopes the group will continue to grow and said they are always on the lookout for new members – just show up for a meeting, join the Facebook group, read the rules, and get your mower ready.
“We actually want people to bring their own mowers and have fun with us,” Boetsch said. “We are not a traveling circus putting on a show. We want more people to get involved. “