Lawn mowers can reach up to 90 miles per hour. They can spit dirt and lure dozens of onlookers away from county rides and turkey legs.
But no, they can’t cut the grass.
“The blades are the first to go,” David Calvert said as he prepared for Wednesday night’s lawn mower race at the Maricopa County Fair.
Calvert is a founder and current vice president of the Arizona Lawn Mower Racing Association – “How the West Got Broke”
He started the grassroots movement about 15 years ago at the suggestion of one of Buckeye’s demolition derby committee members. As a kid mowing gardens growing up, Calvert said, “I always dreamed of making my lawn mower faster.”
The mowers’ brakes and steering are upgraded, but they’re “all lawnmowers,” Calvert said — “the engine, the transmission, the tires, the frame…everything.”
Calvert discovered that there was a national association for the sport and helped build the 30 or so members in Arizona. The pack meets about once a month at fairs, demolition derbies, etc.
“We’re kind of a traveling freak show,” Calvert said after a practice session Wednesday night. “There’s nothing funnier than seeing a bunch of grown men dicing it on lawn mowers.”
It’s a fair assessment.
From the stands, they look like tweens on go-karts. It’s not until the helmets are off that you notice the clumps of gray and face the likes of Clark Eikenbary, the oldest rider at 82.
Eikenbary started the hobby a few years ago when he bought an unwanted lawnmower from a local church for a burger from Wendy.
“It stopped me from going into bars,” he said when asked why he was running. “I have no money to hunt women.”
All of Wednesday’s contestants are male, but the racers will assure anyone who tunes in that there’s something for the ladies too – a purple racing mower is currently for sale on Craigslist, according to one.
The riders accelerated to “Wild Thing” and took off after the singing of the national anthem – Eikenbary’s only after a push from one of the arena staff. Another mower stalled indefinitely.
A banana yellow mower driven by Brian Rich, 37, is named the winner, but he was unaware of this fact until he was asked about it.
Calvert also wasn’t sure where he came from – maybe 6 out of 10? He attributed the loss to his lack of “mojo” – he usually dyes his beard green for luck.
If you are going to
When: from 5 p.m. Thursday.
Or: Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 West McDowell Road, Phoenix.
Price: Tickets to the “best value” fair are $9 for adults; children under 8 are free.
More information: Visit maricopacountyfair.org/entertainment.html