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by jmaloni
Fri, Jun 24th 2011 11:50 pm

1,000 attend Lawn Mower Races benefit Relay For Life

by Marwa Eltagouri

Beautiful weather, tasty barbecue and great music are often the only things a dad needs for the perfect Father's Day. And, of course, the sound of the loud, blaring engines of many fathers' favorite toys: their lawn mowers.

This past Sunday, almost 1,000 people gathered across from 3957 West River Road for the third annual Relay For Life Father's Day Lawn Mower Races. About 50 dads and their sons raced their lawn mowers down West River Parkway to win prizes and support a great cause - the fight against cancer.

For a $10 registration fee/donation, people signed up to race their lawn mowers in one (or more) of five different races, depending on the type of lawn mower. The five race classes included: self-propelled, vintage (for lawn mowers older than 1980), stock (for lawn mowers that could go 1-15 mph), modified (for lawn mowers that could go 1-45 mph), and open modified (for lawn mowers of any engine or transmission).

The races date back to 1978, when Floyd Doring, co-chairman of the event, challenged his former neighbor Pat Murphy to a lawn mower race and won. Two of their friends then decided to race, and eventually the races grew to include 30 people. According to Doring, the races continued on for 10 years, and then stopped for 20 years, until recently.

"Pete McMahon and Gary Roesch talked to Floyd and said, 'Can't you bring the lawn mower races back?' " said Mary Dunbar -Daluisio, the other chairman of the event. "He needed insurance though, and so he decided to donate his profits to the American Cancer Society."

That's where Dunbar-Daluisio, who serves as Grand Island's Relay For Life co-chairman, stepped in. She believes the Father's Day races are a ton of fun, and effective due to all the vendors and entertainers at the event donating their profits to the American Cancer Society. She hopes the event will make a difference.

"There's so much cancer in Western New York, and we really want to find a cure in our lifetime so that our kids can say, 'There is no cancer.' " Dunbar-Daluisio said.

The winners of the races included Mike Meritt in the vintage race, Ken Ducan in the stock race, Jon Caruana in the modified race, and Pete Marston in the open modified race. Bob Mesmer had the highest speed of 78 mph in a demonstration run, and Marston achieved a top speed of 61 mph in the modified race.

"When I raced vintage I beat this little kid bad, and felt bad about it. Then when I raced him again in stock he beat me, so it was good," reflected Meritt before picking up his prize. "It's not to be taken seriously, it's all fun and charity."

Other events included a large car show consisting of 61 cars, organized by Rick Smith. The show consisted of several classic cars, including a 1925 Ford C-cab, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, and some pre-1960 Corvettes. For just a $10 fee/donation, any car could be submitted, and at the end of the day 20 cars were awarded plaques.

Smith's favorite car in the show? His own 1964 Ford Fairlane, which he bought in 2001 and worked on himself in a 6-by25-foot garage. It still has an original Thunderbolt hood, and took him six hours just to take apart.

"It's an oddity because there's very few Fairlane's left, and you can't get the parts anymore," Smith said. "The only way I can get them is if I find someone selling them online."

Another event at the races was the raffling of the "Miracle Car", a 2011 Chevy Aveo, as a way to raise money for building a rubber baseball diamond at the Sabres Miracle League Field in Veterans Park for children with disabilities. The car will also be taken to other venues such as Canal Fest and Taste of Buffalo, where raffle tickets will be sold for $10. The project is funded by the Buffalo Sabres Alumni, and the field plans to open Sept. 11.

The event was wrapped up with an afternoon of music by the Fabulous USA Band, who play '60s, '70s, grassroots, and blues music. The band has been together for 30 years, and included original members Bobby LoTempio (lead vocalist) and Frank "Franky G." Geracitano (drummer). The band also includes members Pete Zito (keyboard), Joe Vertino (bass) and Charles LoTempio (guitar).

Overall, the Father's Day fundraiser was able to raise $4,000 for the American Cancer Society. Sponsors included Sam Long's Landscaping, Rhino-Tees/Angelo Grande, Funk Lawn Care, Anchor Marine, Say Cheese, K&D Action Photo, R.B. U'REN Rentals, Rose Liquor , and Sound Choice Audio and Performance.

Also helping, in addition to Doring and Dunbar-Daluisio, were McMahon, Roesch, Marston, Eric Berger, Skip Mazenauer, Phil Buchanan, Peter Zito, Bob Funk, Becky Sommer-Stufkosky, Bob DeGlopper, and Jim Dinsmore.

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