Turtle days amaze

TURTLE LAKE A turtle race got off to a rousing start Saturday afternoon when a turtle sporting a miniature American flag crawled into the center ring and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.

Then the turtle races began, with cheering crowds and stomping feet, though some of the turtles didn’t seem inclined to move. Those that did moved in a circular fashion, inches at a time. Children and high school classes celebrating their reunions this weekend were among the sponsors of the poky turtles.

Though Turtle Lake Days is famous for its annual turtle race, Shawn Schafer said, the soap box derby for the little kids comes in a close second.

Young competitors, age 11 and under, raced their cars down the city street.

The winner was 11-year-old Colton O’Shea, the champion for the second year in a row.

“Colton’s been doing this for a lot of years,” said Schafer, who volunteered to officiate the race. “This is probably going to be his last year.”

The rules for the contest say that the total weight of car and child cannot exceed 200 pounds. Though there isn’t an age limit, most kids grow too big to participate.

As he received his championship trophy, Colton said his winning strategy was just trying to stay in the car.

The second-place winner was Wyatt Wagner, age 8, and third-place winner was Abby Zochert, also 8.

Abby said she was just trying to steer her car straight and Wyatt said he was just trying to win.

Schafer said the soap box cars are all equipped with brakes and a miniature steering wheel and are safe for the kids.

“In 25 years we’ve never had a casualty,” he said.

The cars are sponsored by local businesses. There is a drawing before the race for use of three cars so kids have a chance to compete in the derby.

After all, said Schafer, not everyone is able to build their own soap box car.

Turtle Lake Days, which started Friday and will continue through today, has been particularly memorable this year. Schafer said the parade in the morning was fantastic and bigger than Mandan’s. People came from all over the area to enjoy the parade and events such as the soap box derby and the turtle races, he said.

Other events on Saturday included a horseshoe tournament, a tractor pull, inflatables and a dunking booth for the kids, a craft fair and a street dance in the evening. Troy Bergquist, a 4-H member, said he was enjoying taking part in all the fun activities and talking with people on Main Street.

Irene Graves, McLean County Extension agent, was taking advantage of the festivities to promote farmers markets. Graves dressed up in old-time costume and brought along her pony and dog. The pony attracted attention, she said, and helped her get information about whether people use farmers markets or if they’d like to see more of them. Graves said the office received a SARE grant. She has also been in the parades in Wilton and McClusky, though she said it rained both of those days. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, which was warm and sunny.

The fun continues today with one-room schoolhouse tours and a softball tournament.