Story and Photo By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
Get ready to rev up your engines. Lawnmower engines, that is.
The Father’s Day Lawnmower race is once again coming to the West River bike trail from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 18.
The event is preceded by a memorial 5K Walk/Run at 10 a.m., named in memory of Kevin Doring, the late son of Floyd and Chie Doring. New this year is a race featuring remote control cars. The kids mower race, for ages 4 to 10, is free, and plastic toy lawnmowers – complete with bubbles – are provided for the young contestants.
A car, bike and truck show will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s a $10 donation for those who display their vehicles in the show.
Another addition to the festivities this year is a cornhole tournament. Hamburgers, hot dogs and beverages will be available for purchase from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Registration runs from 9-10 a.m., with a drivers’ meeting at 10:30 a.m., testing at 11 a.m., and races beginning at noon. The fee for each race or the 5K run is $10.
People are asked to bring their own lawn chairs to the event.
Lynn Dingey, co-chair of the Grand Island Relay For Life, and one of the organizers for the lawnmower race, said the event this Sunday has as its purpose “to bring the community together to raise money for the American Cancer Society and the (Grand Island) Relay. That money goes to supporting cancer patient services and research.”
Dingey said anyone can participate in any of the events, including the run/walk, which is not a sanctioned or timed race.
“It’s just a casual thing,” she explained. “Anybody can bring their lawnmower. It doesn’t have to be super-fast. They can bring their regular lawnmower they mow their grass with … and they can decorate it if they want.”
The lawnmower race is a tradition that had its beginnings in a friendly lawnmower challenge decades ago, between longtime West River Road resident Floyd Doring and some neighbors, among them, the late Gene Roesch and William Berger. The race resumed about 10 years ago after a long hiatus.
Roesch’s son, former Town Council member Gary Roesch, and the Dorings are on the organizing committee. Roesch provided some history about how the lawnmower race began.
“Basically, this event started with Floyd and my dad and Eric Berger’s father, years ago,” Roesch explained. “It was just a backyard race with regular lawnmowers, and they would squirt water on each person, and they would then sit around and have a bunch of beers, then leave.”
His dad owned Gene’s Fix It Shop on Bedell Road, was in the lawnmower repair business, and had retired from Otis Elevator.
“He just liked to putter around with mowers, race boats and whatever,” Roesch said. “So, this is a tradition that I feel I’m carrying on for my dad’s sake, and especially Floyd. He has been an avid promoter of doing things in Grand Island community service. And the other thing that is really important is carrying on Mary Dunbar’s tradition.”
The late Mary Dunbar-Daluisio was longtime chair of the Relay For Life of Grand Island and a supporter of the lawnmower race, as well. The race, named in her memory, raised $6,000 for the Grand Island Relay in 2022 and an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 for the Relay over the years, Roesch said.
“I remember, years ago, her asking me to help with the Relay, and going over to the high school for numerous meetings,” he said. “Now, with the lawnmower race, it’s just something we don’t want to leave go.”
Roesch said there are five different classes of lawnmowers for the races: “Anywhere from the supermodified to the modified, to the regular stock classes. And it’s a lot of fun. ... The track is 300 feet long, and at the end of 300 feet, these guys will be doing 70 mph. They have snowmobile motors in them, and they’re all souped up. I’ve got what they call a modified lawnmower – it’s a modified Honda 12-horse that, by the end of 300 feet, will do 50 mph.”
Dingey said the event comes together nicely and the community supports it.
“It’s great to be on Father’s Day, too,” she said, with a lot of kids and their fathers there to enjoy the event.
The organizing committee met June 12 at the Grand Island Moose Lodge to finalize plans for the June 18 Father’s Day Mary Dunbar-Daluisio Memorial Lawnmower and RC Car Race and Kevin Doring Memorial 5K Walk/Run. Committee members, from left: Chie Doring, Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney, Grand Island Relay For Life Co-Chair Lynn Dingey, Gary Roesch, Mark Leffler, Mary Ehde, Ron Hendel and Floyd Doring.
In the front row are Floyd and Chie Doring; from left, in back row, are Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney, Grand Island Relay For Life Co-Chair Lynn Dingey, Ron Hendel, Mary Ehde, Gary Roesch and Mark Leffler.