Hairball returns to Events Center

The Clay County Fair & Events Center welcomes back Hairball to the Clay County Regional Events Center on Friday, February 22 at 7:30pm as a part of the 2019 SRG Concert Series.

“We’re excited to add Hairball to the Events Center winter schedule,” said CEO Jeremy Parsons. “Announcing before Christmas gives rock fans the perfect opportunity to purchase tickets at a special stocking stuffer pre-sale price of just $18 this week.”

Hairball, in its 19th year in 2019, isn’t one of your typical “80’s Tribute” bands that you find across the country. Hairball is an experience, an attitude, and expression of music that isn’t simply a retro flashback.

Tickets will go on sale Tuesday, December 18 at 10:00am. Prices are $23 in advance and $28 at the door. Pre-sale tickets will be available December 18-21 for $18. Tickets will be available online at www.midwestix.com, by phone at 515-244-2771, or in person at the Events Center Box Office.

Clay County Fair & Events Center receives international recognition

2018 IAFE award winning photo of roper and horse.

Presented at the Closing Party and Awards Reception on November 30, the Fair received first place recognition in two categories, along with 10 other awards, at the annual International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) Convention held this week in San Antonio.

First place honors included “Single Photo of Rodeo” and “New Single Class in Competitive Exhibits.”

The IAFE awards program allows member fairs to enter competitions based on competitive exhibits, agricultural education and communications. The entries are evaluated and judged by teams of industry leaders. For the awards program, the approximately 1,100 member fairs of the IAFE are split into five categories based on attendance. The Clay County Fair competes in Division 3, which is limited to fairs across the globe with an attendance of 250,000-500,000.

Taking top honors in the Agriculture Awards for “Single Photo of Rodeo” was a photo taken by Jim Steffens of Steffens Game Day Photography during the Fair’s PRCA Rodeo on September 9.

The Fair also received first place in Competitive Exhibits Awards for “New Single Class in Competitive Exhibits” featuring the new Memorable Collections class in the Creative Living Center. The Memorable Collections class, under the direction of Gayle Simons, received 22 entries in its first year at the Fair.

“These awards are all due to the hard work of our Board of Directors, staff, sponsors and partners, and volunteers,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons. “It is an honor to receive these awards and recognition from our peers in the fair industry.”

Besides the two first place awards, the Fair claimed the following other awards:

– Second place, “Single Photo of Livestock,” Agriculture Awards – photo by Spencer Daily Reporter

– Second place, “Newspaper Ad – Black and White,” Communications Awards

– Second place, “Promotional Event,” Communications Awards – Iowa Lakes Community College Science Saturday

– Third Place, “Single Photo of Horticulture/Crops,” Agriculture Awards – Photo by Judy Hemphill

– Third place, “New Display Method and/or Prop,” Competitive Exhibit Awards – Ag Department corn display racks

– Third place, “Single Photo of Competitive Exhibit Display,” Competitive Exhibits Awards – Canned Goods Department – Photo by Judy Hemphill

– Third place, “Photo Series of Competitive Exhibit Display,” Competitive Exhibits Awards – Ag Department Scarecrows – Photos by Andrea Wiesenmeyer

– Third place, “Photo Series of a General Display,” Competitive Exhibits Awards – Smoky Mountain Railroad – Photos by Andrea Wiesenmeyer

– Third place, “Best Magazine Ad,” Communications Awards

– Third place, “Social Media Campaign,” Communications Awards

About IAFE The IAFE is a voluntary, not-for-profit corporation, serving state, provincial, regional, and county agricultural fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions. Its associate members include state and provincial associations of fairs, non-agricultural expositions and festivals, associations, corporations, and individuals engaged in providing products and services to its members, all of whom are interested in the improvement of fairs and allied fields.

Home Free – A Country Christmas

The Clay County Fair & Events Center is pleased to announce Home Free – A Country Christmas presented as part of the SRG Concert Series Saturday, December 15, 2018. The show, which will be held in the Clay County Regional Events Center, will begin at 7:30pm.

“The Events Center Christmas show has become a tradition in northwest Iowa,” said Fair & Events Center CEO Jeremy Parsons. “This outstanding night with Home Free will be the perfect addition to that tradition.”

Home Free, known for their show-stopping performances that mix their signature no-instrument, all-vocal music with their quick-witted humor, is sure to entertain all ages with their Country Christmas. The five-man a capella group will perform country and holiday favorites, including music from their Billboard No. 2 album, “Full Of (Even More) Cheer.”

Tickets are on sale. Prices are $48, $38, and $28 (reserved seating). A “Holiday Cheer” option that includes a pre-show party with unlimited food and drink is available for $20 (limited number available). Tickets will be available online at www.midwestix.com, by phone at 515-244-2771, or in person at the Events Center Box Office.

A Country Christmas comes to Clay County Fair & Events Center

Spencer, Iowa — The Clay County Fair & Events Center is pleased to announce Home Free – A Country Christmas presented as part of the SRG Concert Series Saturday, December 15, 2018. The show, which will be held in the Clay County Regional Events Center, will begin at 7:30pm.

“The Events Center Christmas show has become a tradition in northwest Iowa,” said Fair & Events Center CEO Jeremy Parsons. “This outstanding night with Home Free will be the perfect addition to that tradition.”

Home Free, known for their show-stopping performances that mix their signature no-instrument, all-vocal music with their quick-witted humor, is sure to entertain all ages with their Country Christmas. The five-man a capella group will perform country and holiday favorites, including music from their Billboard No. 2 album, “Full Of (Even More) Cheer.”

Tickets will go on sale Friday, August 3 at 10:00am. Prices are $48, $38, and $28 (reserved seating). A “Holiday Cheer” option that includes a pre-show party with unlimited food and drink is available for $20 (limited number available). Tickets will be available online at www.midwestix.com, by phone at 515-244-2771, or in person at the Events Center Box Office.

 

CCF&EC welcomes two new employees

Clay County Fair and Events Center welcomes Phil Poutre, as the new executive chef and Talor Batschelet as the new receptionist for the Fair & Events Center. 

Phil Poutre, executive chef, brings more than 16 years of food industry experience to his position. Poutre grew up in northern Iowa and studied culinary arts and business at the Le Cordon Bleu Institute at Brown College in the Twin Cities. He spent a large portion of his career working for private country clubs in the Naples, Florida area. 

“I really enjoy working in Spencer, and I am proud to be part of such a great team of people,” said Poutre. “I am excited to bring new offerings to the menu in the near future.”

Poutre and his family relocated back to the Midwest. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking, the beach and riding off-road vehicles.

When you stop at the Fair & Events Center Administative Offices, Talor Batschelet will be the first to greet you as the new receptionist.  Batschelet considers herself a “returnee” to the Fair & Events Center; she originally joined the team in the spring of 2016 as summer office help and was in charge of open class competitive exhibits entry during the 2016 Fair. 

Batschelet, who grew up in Everly, was recently married to her husband Caleb, who works for Clay County as an equipment operator, and farms with his family. The couple lives in Spencer with their cat, Teddy.

“I feel like I have always been a part of the Fair because my grandpa, Jack Schoelerman, used to be on the Clay County Fair Board,” said Batschelet. “I loved that he got golf cart privileges, and I always felt so important when I got to ride around the fairgrounds with him.”

Lauren Daigle to perform at the 2018 Clay County Fair

The Clay County Fair announces that Lauren Daigle with special guest Zach Williams will perform as part of the SRG Concert Series in the Grandstand at the 2018 Clay County Fair on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7:30pm.

In a short time, Lauren Daigle has made an impressive mark on the Christian music scene. Blessed with a voice that is both smoky and sweet, Daigle has forged a unique sound that combines soulful, heart-in-throat vulnerability with the passionate fire to serve. Her songs are ripe with the kind of compelling lyrics and engaging melodies that invite listeners to draw closer to their creator.

2018 GRAMMY® Award winner Zach Williams comes from a place of humility and honesty as his songs are a direct reflection of God’s redemption in his life. Chain Breaker, Zach Williams’ debut album, has already impacted millions of people with songs such as “Chain Breaker,” Survivor,” My Liberty,” and “Fear is a Liar.”

“Our Tuesday contemporary Christian Grandstand concert is becoming a tradition on Family Night,” said Fair CEO Jeremy Parsons. “This will be an unbelievable night featuring two of the biggest names in Christian music right now.”

Tickets will go on sale Friday, February 16 at 10:00am. Prices are $35 (general admission stage front standing), $30 (reserved Grandstand seating), and $25 (general admission bleacher seating). Tickets will be available online at www.midwestix.com, by phone at 515-244-2771, or in person at the Events Center Box Office (M-F, 9am-4pm).

About The Clay County Fair & Events Center Rooted in Tradition, the Clay County Fair and Events Center is a year-round facility that annually hosts more than 300 events, including its signature event, the Clay County Fair. Known as “The World’s Greatest County Fair” since 1917, the Clay County Fair attracts more than 325,000 guests each September for nine-days of world-class entertainment, competition, food, fun, and the largest farm machinery show at any fair in the United States. Additional information can be found at claycountyfair.com.

About Spencer Radio Group (SRG) Spencer Radio Group (SRG), based out of Spencer, is made up of three premier radio stations KICD1240 AM, BIG Country 107.7, and MORE 104.9. SRG not only provides a radio avenue to reach a range of audiences, but also partners with online solutions to optimize the success of their clients.

Get in the Fair Spirit early

It’s time to get in the Centennial Fair spirit with last minute savings and kick off celebrations prior to the opening of the Clay County Fair on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Advance adult gate admission tickets are available for $7, saving fairgoers $3 before the gates open Sept. 9. Tickets can be purchased online, at the Grandstand Ticket Office, or at more than 70 locations throughout northwest Iowa and southern Minnesota. To purchase those tickets (or see the list of locations where you can buy in person), please visit www.claycountyfair.com.

Advance gate tickets will also be sold from the Historic Gate A Towers on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 7 and 8.

Advance carnival wristbands for the GoldStar Amusements Midway are available online, at the Grandstand Ticket Office, or at various Godfather’s Pizza locations in Iowa and Minnesota. All-Day wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all day on Saturdays or Sundays for $22 in advance (another $3 savings). VIP wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all nine days of the Fair. The wristbands are $49 in advance, saving fairgoers $6 if purchased in advance. To purchase those wristbands (or see the list of locations where you can buy in person), please visit www.claycountyfair.com.

Fair Food Bucks are a special for all fairgoers. Each Fair Food Buck is worth $1 and can be redeemed for food or beverage at any non-carnival food and beverage vendor at the Fair. Fair Food Bucks can be bought on the Fair’s website or at the Grandstand Ticket Office.

Everyone can get a taste of the Fair ahead of time by attending “Fair on the Square” Thursday, Sept. 7 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. This special Centennial “thank you” to Clay County will take place on the Courthouse lawn with free food for the first 1,000 people.  In addition, there will be samples of Fair food along with GoldStar Amusements and free entertainment.

Livestock competition deadline approaching

The entry deadline of August 15 is rapidly approaching for exhibitors to register their award-winning sheep, swine, dairy cattle, rabbits, horses and beef cattle for competitive shows at the 2017 Clay County Fair.

“Livestock competition is a cornerstone of the Fair experience,” said CCF Manager Jeremy Parsons.  “We encourage exhibitors to get their entries to us by August 15.”

Daily open class livestock and horse shows are a highlight for many fairgoers each year with 700 exhibitors showing 2,223 open class livestock exhibits in 2016.  Additionally, several hundred 4-H and FFA exhibitors also show at the Fair.

New to this year’s Fair open class livestock competitions is the Hereford swine division. The Hereford swine show will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9.  Changes have also been made to the draft horse show, including added premium money.  The North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series, which will feature $10,000 in prize money for the beautiful hitches, will begin at 1:30pm on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17, giving fairgoers two afternoons to watch the draft horses.

“Our goal is to constantly expand our livestock shows to give more people the opportunity to show,” Parsons said.

Check out the exhibitor handbooks online at www.claycountyfair.com to find the rules and guidelines, as well as online registration, to enter livestock at the 2017 Clay County Fair. Deadline for open class livestock entries is August 15.

Horses to highlight the Outdoor Arena

Horses once again highlight the events at the Outdoor Arena during the 2017 Clay County Fair, Sept. 9-17.

However, another species of animals will return to the Arena on Sunday, Sept. 10 when bull riding returns to the Fair.

“Whether it’s to enjoy a horse show or rodeo events, the Outdoor Arena will provide something for everyone at the 2017 Fair,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons.

The Arena will host daily open class shows, as well as 4-H and FFA horse shows. In addition, special events and activities will occur throughout the Fair.

Open Class Paint, Quarter Horse and Pony Performance shows will be Sept. 9-11 before changing to 4-H and FFA shows Sept. 12-14. The second weekend of the Fair (Sept. 15-17) will feature open class Pony, Appaloosa and Miniatures, Antique Buggies and Pony Hitches.

The Arena will be packed the final weekend when the Fair concludes with Draft Horse Hitches on Sept. 16-17.  The North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series will feature $10,000 in prize money for the beautiful hitches. New in 2017, the hitch classes will begin at 1:30pm giving fairgoers two afternoons to watch the draft horses.

Besides daily horse shows, special events will also take center stage in the Arena.

NBHA Barrel Racing will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9 attracting cowgirls from across the upper Midwest as they compete for $1,500 in added prize money.

Bull riding will be making its much anticipated return to the Fair this year courtesy of Barnes PRCA Rodeo out of Peterson, Iowa. This award-winning company has been going strong since 1950 and the Fair will be just one of 30 events they will participate in throughout 2017. This event will take place at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10.

Back by popular demand, Cowboy Mounted Shooting will be on Friday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. In this event, horses and riders will go through a path as quickly as possible while shooting at balloons on top of stakes. Also on Friday will be the classic event, Team Roping, at a new time of 10 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 16 is the Ranch Rodeo which includes various ranch activities for exhibitors to compete in such as roping a calf and sorting cattle. This event will begin at 6 p.m.

All Outdoor Arena events are free with gate admission.

 

“Come Home” and see what is new at the Fair

With a Centennial Celebration in mind, the Clay County Fair will celebrate Sept. 9-17 with some new additions as well as some rearranging for fairgoers to enjoy for the next 100 years.

“When you invite people to come to your home for a special celebration, you always take the opportunity to clean out the closets and rearrange some furniture,” said Fair Manager Jeremy Parsons.  “It’s been no different here as we prepare for our big Centennial celebration.  We’ve done some rearranging.”

The Photography Center, formerly the Industrial Building located south of the Commercial Exhibits Building, will display blue ribbon photography and give viewers a chance to explore Fair history and classic cars with the Centennial Historical Exhibit, presented by the Clay County Heritage Center and the Iowa Great Lakes Car Club.

For daily educational opportunities at the brand-new FarmU, fairgoers will want to visit the Ag Marketplace, formerly the Innovation Pavilion. Ag vendors at the Fair will be given space and time to do daily presentations and demonstrations as part of FarmU.  In addition, this building will feature the Farm Gadget Show, as well as ag-related vendors.

Take in blue ribbon fruits, vegetables, grains, farm crops, scarecrows, and giant pumpkins at the newly renovated Fields & Gardens Building, next to the Art Barn.

More than 50 of the 500 vendors will be exhibiting in the Tower Gate Pavilion located on the east end of the fairgrounds.  This new 12,000 square foot building also includes restrooms.

Calling all thrill-seekers, Bull Riding has once again returned to the Fair. This event will be held on Sunday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. in the Outdoor Arena. It will be free with gate admission and is presented by Barnes Rodeo Company.

In addition, there will be a new ride this year in the Gold Star Midway. 2Xtreme is guaranteed to raise adrenaline my spinning riders 360 degrees high in the air.

Embrace the change with the beginnings of Centennial Plaza, the new park that is being created on the site of the former Ag Building. This latest improvement project will feature educational opportunities and give families a place to take a break with the Family Place, a building devoted to guest services.

Experience various job opportunities in the Plaza area with hands-on simulators at the Northwest Iowa Opportunities Hub presented by the Iowa Lakes Corridor, Iowa Lakes Community College and IowaWORKS.

Gold Star Amusements brings back old favorites with a new addition

Goldstar Amusements is celebrating their 25th anniversary at the Clay County Fair, September 9-17, with an addition of a new ride.

The new ride, the 2Xtreme, will propel riders into the sky while spinning them around 360 degrees.

“We are fortunate to work with one of the best carnivals in the United States,” said CCF Manager Jeremy Parsons.  “The new ride will be just one more attraction to make our Centennial Celebration even more spectacular.”

The 2Xtreme will join more than 30 other rides, including Pharaoh’s Fury, the Zipper, and Power Surge.  For younger fairgoers, Kiddieland (which is smoke-free) will feature rides like the Safari Train and the Helicopters.

Advance carnival wristbands for the Gold Star Amusements Midway are available online, at the Events Center Box Office, or at various Godfather’s Pizza locations in Iowa and Minnesota. All-Day wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all day on Saturdays or Sundays for $22 in advance and $25 during the Fair. VIP wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all nine days of the Fair. The wristbands are $49 in advance and $55 during the Fair. To purchase those wristbands (or see the list of locations where you can buy in person), please visit www.claycountyfair.com.

Make plans now to “Come Home” and save with big deals

Fairgoers have the opportunity to save big through several pre-Fair deals as they make plans to “Come Home” for the Centennial Clay County Fair.

Advance adult gate admission tickets are available for $7, saving fairgoers $3 before the gates open Sept. 9. Tickets can be purchased online, at the Clay County Fair and Events Center Box Office, or at more than 70 locations throughout northwest Iowa and southern Minnesota. To purchase those tickets (or see the list of locations where you can buy in person), please visit www.claycountyfair.com.

Advance carnival wristbands for the GoldStar Amusements Midway are available online, at the Events Center Box Office, or at various Godfather’s Pizza locations in Iowa and Minnesota. All-Day wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all day on Saturdays or Sundays for $22 in advance (another $3 savings). VIP wristbands are valid for unlimited rides all nine days of the Fair. The wristbands are $49 in advance, saving fairgoers $6 if purchased in advance. To purchase those wristbands (or see the list of locations where you can buy in person), please visit www.claycountyfair.com.

Fair Food Bucks are a special for fairgoers. Each Fair Food Buck is worth $1 and can be redeemed for food or beverage at any non-carnival food and beverage vendor at the 2017 Centennial Clay County Fair. Fair Food Bucks can be bought on the Fair’s website or at the Events Center Box Office.

Tickets for all U.S. Cellular Grandstand events are also on sale. Grandstand tickets are available online at www.midwestix.com at the Events Center Box Office, or by phone at 515-244-2771. This includes the six concerts, two auto races, two chuckwagon races and three truck and tractor pulls.

Nick Birchard

Racing is in the genes for the Birchard family. Red and his sons, Nick and Josh, have been around area racing for a long time.

The Birchard family has been involved racing Enduros or stock cars or helping on sprint cars or modifieds. In 2010, as Nick Birchard watched the World of Outlaws race during the Clay County Fair, the Miniakota Micro raced as the support class. He mentioned to his dad that they looked fun to race. When the Birchards found an inexpensive car, they bought it and started racing in 2012. Nick has since raced all over Iowa, southwest Minnesota, as well as different tracks in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

His brother, Josh, was a major player into getting a micro track built at the Clay County Fair Speedway.

“As we continued to race long distances from home, the Clay County Speedway was having weekly racing. We got a game plan together to see if we could make it work,” said Josh. “We’ve been having fun ever since.”

Nick quickly gives his family credit for their work, singing the praises of Josh and Red, who both work on the car as much as possible. Nights at the shop are family times, and even Nick and Josh’s grandpa stops in to make sure the guys are doing things right. The three generations also gather as much as possible to cheer on Nick as he races.

“I always want to win; I always want to pass the guy who passed me,” Nick said. “I guess in that aspect, I always carry a chip on my shoulder. I always want to beat the guy that has more experience than me.”

Nick says that the hardest part of racing is getting the car ready, taking the time of another full-time job, so the work Josh and their dad do on the car invaluable. The Micros go much faster than most people think. With a smaller track, “the Miniakota Micros are capable of running faster lap times than a lot of the other classes,” Nick said. “The cars are fun to drive and put on a fun show, especially when we race without the wings.

“Mentally, you have to have a short memory whether you win or lose. If you get your butt whooped, you don’t want to remember that. You have to move on and get better. And when you win, you have little time to celebrate because you have to get back working on the care because there is always someone out there working harder and putting in the hours to beat you.”

All in all, the times with the crew are memories that will stick with the Birchards throughout their time racing, memories that will last the family a lifetime.

Jay and Kaytee DeVries

Jay DeVries always looks for his wife as he races around the track, usually so she won’t pass him or he won’t hit her car.

Jay has been racing since 2006, and four years into racing, he convinced his wife to hop in his brother’s car. From then on, Kaytee DeVries was hooked. She started racing regularly as soon as they got her a car in a few short weeks.

Since then, she’s raced against her husband every time they can be on the track together. This year they have been regular drivers at many tracks in Iowa and southwest Minnesota, racing every night except Sundays and Mondays. They prefer to race against each other. “We have fun racing against each other,” Kaytee said. “But if we get in the same wreck or if he hits me on the track, it makes for a long ride home.”

This year, the couple has raced 26 times already, working their way to beat last year’s 74 races. The DeVries team rarely race one car, but the person with more points will race if too many cars have been badly damaged.

Jay’s interest in racing started as a boy when he would join his dad Kelly at the racetrack, where he would race Enduro cars in Spencer and the surrounding area. Later, Jay would pick up a passion for Sport Compacts from his mom’s husband, Chad. Jay would join Chad at the track, helping friends with their Sport Compact car. Not too long after, the crew had a car ready for Jay and he was racing too.

Racing together has made the couple better drivers, and Jay currently leads Sport Compacts racing at the Clay County Fair Speedway with Kaytee only behind her first-place husband by two points, as of July 5. They are both competitive people, and she places better than him several times, he said. “Sports Compacts might be a beginner class, but there is so much competition and that’s what I like the most about it,” Kaytee said.

The couple works on their cars together as much as they can. They both like to watch each other succeed and have a chance to race together often. As much as they love being on the track together, it has its difficulties.

“She doesn’t like it when I bump her or push her on the track. She’ll get upset if I do that,” he said.

The Clay County Fair Speedway is Jay’s favorite track to race, as it was one of the earlier tracks to have Sports Compact racing. His favorite parts of racing include the adrenaline rush and the fans that come with the fun event, particularly the family and friends that can watch the DeVries racing team at the CCF Speedway.

“Overall, I’m just really happy to be on the track. I like that I can get my sponsors out there because they really help out a lot,” Jay said.

Matt Morrow

Husband and wife team Matt and Sara Morrow can both be found at the Clay County Fair Speedway on Friday nights. However, you’ll never see Sara sitting in the stands or standing in the pits for very long. Instead, she is often in the middle of the track taking picture of all drivers throughout the night, including the family’s 9M car.

“It gives her something to do with her nervous energy, and it’s nice to have your own personal photographer follow you around,” Morrow said. She started taking pictures as the pair watched his brother race and took it up a notch when Morrow started driving his own car.

He started going to races with his dad as a young kid for a few years until his dad died in 1990, when Morrow was 9 years old. He kept going to races with his brother every so often 7 until his oldest brother, Mike, started racing his own car. Then he would go watch him as often as possible.

Morrow has raced all over western Iowa, southwest Minnesota, and southeast South Dakota since he started in 2013. Mike bought a new car and left his old car sitting in his brother’s shop. This inspired Morrow to buy a race suit and helmet and take a spin on the track. After he lost his first race, he was captivated by winning. “I really like going fast and doing things you’re not supposed to do,” he laughed. While he has driven a few different car classes for hot laps, Morrow races exclusively Sports Mods.

Part of the reason Morrow does not race more than three times a week is the amount of time he spends on his car. “Just to race one night a week, you’ll spend between six to eight hours a week preparing your car for the different tracks,” he said. In addition to the time, cost and his job also factors into the limitations.

A regular driver at the Clay County Fair Speedway, Morrow likes the clay track. “Everybody is fast on a heavy, hammer-down track, but it makes you think if the track is dry slick.” His favorite feeling is when he can throw the car into the corner and slide through the turns. Even though he thought racing would be a lot of “go fast, turn left”, Morrow discovered that he wishes he spent more time paying attention in geometry class.

Sam and Sonny Van Lenning

Raised in racing, the Van Lenning brothers began attending races with their dad at a young age. Their dad always had the dream to race, and their mom did powderpuff racing in the Hobby Stock class. Sonny and Sam also wanted to race, though it was a dream for a long time. Sam started racing Cruisers in 2000 with a friend. His dad was always there making sure the drivers were ready.

After their dad died from a brain tumor in 2001, the brothers turned a dream into reality. The two first got involved in racing themselves by driving push trucks at different tracks in the area. Sam was the first push truck driver for the Clay County Fair Speedway. After buying a car last year, Sonny also began his racing career at CCF Speedway. A short time after hearing how much Sam wanted to drive, Sonny convinced his older brother to drive his car one night. From there, Sam was hooked; he bought a car and started racing as well.

Racing offers the Van Lenning families the opportunity to get together often. While the risks of the brothers racing always concern their families, they do enjoy supporting Sonny’s and Sam’s dreams on the racetrack. Anywhere the brothers race, friends and family gathers in support; they encourage the brothers’ dreams throughout northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. This year, the Van Lennings have a calendar to coordinate the racing schedule.

The Van Lenning team has added ribbons for cancer awareness as well as a sticker for Team Tegan with March of Dimes. “A lady who works at our bank knew we raced and asked if we would put that sticker on our car for her daughter,” Sonny said. “We didn’t have to question it; of course we would.” The ribbons, gray and purple, bring awareness to different diseases, as well as the Van Lenning Racing Team’s t-shirts, that have Race for a Cure printed on them.

The track conditions at the Clay County Fair Speedway make it Sam’s favorite. Sonny likes the CCF Speedway’s short straight-aways, which help him to get a leg up on the competition. “Sonny doesn’t like it when I pass him,” Sam said.

Even though winning is a perk, Sonny also appreciates the great people at the track. “You never know how many people you can meet until you start racing,” he said.

Racing does come with its challenges. Sonny says the hardest part about racing is “getting the set-up on the car just right every time.” A lot goes into preparing a car before a race, especially if a driver wrecked the week before. Not only is a wreck costly on parts, it can take a toll on the driver. Making the time to work on cars can be the hardest thing for Sam. “We change our gears a lot for the different tracks, and it’s not easy like an A-mod.”

Overall, the brothers love racing alongside each other. Sam races his brother harder than everyone else, he said. The brotherly competition spurs the two to be faster. Both agree, “The adrenaline rush of getting in the car and getting in the car is your own little world is awesome. It’s also cool knowing we are continuing a family tradition together.”

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen’s competitive spirit and a family bond started him racing – two things that are sure to keep him racing for a long time.

Christensen grew up going to races with his dad. He was also an athlete, competing in both football and baseball. After an injury sidelined him and eventually forced him to transfer schools, he had to stop competing with a ball in his hand. Christensen still needed to fill his drive for competition. His dad Ron thought of one thing they had done for a long time and could continue to do together: racing.

Sport Mod racing was a relatively new class in 2001, making it a good place for a new team to start. Christensen raced Sport Mods for two years and then moved to the Modified class because he wanted to compete at the highest level.

The 1cc team races a couple times each week, as long as work and family are taken care of. “They always come first,” Christensen said. Family often joins the team at the track, especially since Ron is the co-owner. Christensen’s mom and his two kids join him as often as they can.

Christensen has raced throughout the region in Iowa, southern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota, but he really likes that the Clay County Fair Speedway is so close to home. His favorite part of racing is “the competitiveness.”

“The thought processes, and thinking about new ways to go faster is one of my favorite things about the sport,” says Christensen. “It’s more than just the best parts and driving a car around a track, it’s strategy too.” He adds, “Winning doesn’t hurt either!”

This year has seen some tough outcomes for Christensen racing. Before Clay County Fair Speedway’s opening night, he wrecked at Algona Speedway, but with a team of helpers and many hours of work on the car the next day, the 1cc team was able to make it to the track.

One thing Christensen learned is the hardest part about racing is the time and cost that it takes for a driver to be good and compete at a high level, as his natural competitive nature drives him.

“The sport can be very humbling at time. You never have it all figured out, you’re learning all the time. There’s something new every time I go to the race track. But it’s a blast!” Christensen said. “I had three dreams when growing up: be a farmer, a professional athlete, and a race car driver. I’ve gotten to do two of them, so that’s pretty cool.”

1cc Racing is sponsored by DeKalb, Quail Construction and Greenleaf Agronomy.

Brandon Nielsen

The Nielsen family is very involved in racing. Not only does Brandon compete against his brother, Cody, but the brothers hold the No. 1 and 2 spots in Hobby Stock points at the Clay County Fair Speedway. Their dad owns the shop where the sons work on their cars and “is pretty much the crew chief for both cars.” Mom is the videographer for each race while uncles cheer on both competitors. Brandon’s kids often go; he hopes that it’s to cheer him on, but the concession stand might win their hearts some nights.

The family often uses it as a way to get together. With much of the support system for the racing teams being family, grandparents get to see grandkids; uncles get to see nephews and nieces; and brothers spend time doing something everyone enjoys.

The brothers have raced all over the areas of northwest and central Iowa and southwest Minnesota. Nielsen says there is “still nothing cooler than winning in front of the hometown”.

Brandon started his 2016 season at the CCF Speedway with a win. His car, T8, is named after his son, who was in the stands that night watching alongside the rest of the Nielsen family. His wife, Andrea, and family cheer him on often and contribute to his favorite part about racing: the time spent with family, friends, and the competition.

Brandon recently turned 40 and started racing in the early 2000s when his brother and friends talked him into racing an Enduro car. He started racing his Hobby Stock car in 2007 with the addition of the Clay County Fair Speedway. He likes the CCF Speedway because it is a short drive, like a “box of chocolates: it can be a hammer down, horsepower track to a very slick, driver finesse track.” With the track being different every night due to weather and other factors, Nielsen says that racing is “definitely not as easy as it looks.”

Racing well forces a driver to find the right combination for his or her driving style. Hobby Stock cars are not allowed to be modified much. But, “the hardest part about racing is the time invested,” he says.

For the last few years, he has raced three times a week. Nielsen said, “It’s like a second job.” Often throughout the week, he will put his kids to bed and then work on the car before the next race.

Hobby Stock racing is “the most bang for your buck class in racing,” the brothers say. Most parts are more affordable and reliable for the cost, including the crate motor option, he says. The front tires last almost all year while the rear tires get a few races on them before they need replaced. While Hobby Stocks does not always have the highest winnings, the parts are less expensive, making it a winning combination for the Nielsen team.