BONNYVILLE - With over 120 racers hitting the tarmac throughout the weekend, and 2,700 people watching the action, the Bonnyville Gear Grabbers' drag weekend held Aug. 27 to 29 met and exceeded organizers' expectations.
Shon Gamache, one of the main organizers with the Gear Grabbers, says creating the event has been on the club's radar since they established themselves over a decade ago. But, it took a lot of time and funds to get to the point where the club was able to host its first ever drag weekend at the Bonnyville Regional Airport in 2019.
Due to restrictions in place in 2020, the event did not take place, but it was back for 2021, and organizers are hoping to keep the race weekend growing. Racers came in from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan to take part in the races, he notes.
“It’s really starting to get a reputation in the drag racing world," says Gamache. He describes the weekend as a fun and safe avenue to race - and to watch the races.
There is a lot of work that goes into the weekend, with planning starting early in the year by a core group of club members. There are also plenty of regulations, insurance and equipment requirements needed to race at the airport, he explains.
But, thanks to the hard work of volunteers - which includes at least 20 more people who help out on the actual weekend of the races - and partnerships with the MD of Bonnyville and the local flying club, along with support by a long list of sponsors, the club is hoping the races become a long-standing event that people highlight on their calendar.
Gamache says drag racing is a hobby that many of the organizers "love and know." And while organizing the weekend is "a huge undertaking," Gamache says they get joy out of seeing racers come together, and there's even more joy when the bleachers are full of spectators.
The event also acts as a benefit to a couple of non-profit groups in the area. This year, the Bonnyville SPCA will benefit financially after the organization ran the gates throughout the weekend. Also, the Bonnyville Premier Academy spent time helping with spectator parking and garbage clean-up and they too will receive a financial donation for their efforts.
Funds are raised through entry fees at the event, while sponsorships and fees from racers help cover the multitude of expenses required to host the event. Funds are also reinvested into the event to ensure the event can continue to grow.
“We have some equipment upgrades we want to make next year,” to make the event even better, says Gamache.