Ellerbe Lions Club suspends lawn mower racing indefinitely

Perkins: “I’m going to get to the bottom of this”

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday — and minutes before racing was scheduled to start — a message appeared on the Ellerbe Lions Club Lawn Mower Racing Facebook page indicating that “there will be no lawn mower racing at Ellerbe until further notice.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A racer hits the turn of the Ellerbe Lions Club Speedway during a Memorial Day weekend event in Ellerbe.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A racer hits the turn of the Ellerbe Lions Club Speedway during a Memorial Day weekend event in Ellerbe.

The message was written by a disgusted Kermit Perkins, who has operated the track since lawn mower racing returned to the Ellerbe track in 2013. Lawn mower racing had been canceled at the track for some time, due to insurance purposes, until Perkins agreed to operate the track.

Perkins receives a small percentage of the gate receipts which he said pays only for fuel expended and to pay the crew that works with him. The majority of it benefits the Ellerbe Lions Club, Perkins said.

A dust up started the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, one day after what was reported to be a very large crowd at the national tournament staged by the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association — unofficial estimates had spectators numbering near 900 or more. However, the official gate receipts showed about half that, Perkins said.

Perkins said Joey Bostick, Ellerbe Lions Club president, became defensive when Perkins asked to see the sign-in sheets for Saturday night. Perkins said late Saturday night that it was apparent that some funds were “not put in the appropriate place.” It was unclear exactly how much Perkins said was unaccounted for. Perkins himself said he wanted to be cautious about how much detail he offered to the public. He said he planned to seek assistance from North Carolina Lions Club District 31 F leaders as soon as possible.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Perkins said. “It’s not over with.”

Things came to a head, Perkins said, Saturday evening just before the start of scheduled racing. Perkins said at least two Ellerbe Lions Club representatives appeared to show favoritism toward one food vendor — who also happens to be an Ellerbe Lions Club member. Perkins said other food vendors were barred from selling on the grounds, a move he said is counterproductive because each food vendor pays a fee — that goes directly to the Lions Club — to set up a booth.

Perkins, 51, of Rockingham, has a history of success running go-kart and lawn mower race tracks in the Carolinas, including several years in Wallace. Perkins prides himself on the safety record of tracks under his care. In four races at the Ellerbe track in 2013, no operator required medical attention at a hospital. Only one driver out of five races this year sought treatment at a hospital.

“I enjoy racing,” Perkins said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 12 years old.”

Perkins said the cancellation of lawn mower racing will likely give the Ellerbe Lions Club a “black mark.” It’s a shame, he said.

“The community up there is the ones that keep that track alive,” he said.

One lawn mower racing advocate who wished to remain anonymous supported Perkins. The woman told The Pee Dee Post that her family loaded up for tonight’s racing “only to get there and find out there’s no longer going to be any races.”

Perkins, she wrote, “has done a lot for everyone that races in (Ellerbe).” She reiterated Perkins’ account that Lions Club representatives barred certain outside vendors from selling concessions at the speedway.

“I just think that everyone should know how hard Kermit really works and this is crazy for these men to act like this,” the woman wrote.

Ellerbe Lawn Mower racing is supported in part by the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority. It’s unclear as of late Saturday night how this announcement will impact FY 2014 funding or for FY 2015, which begins July 1. <Editor’s note: The Ellerbe Lions Club receives no funding from the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority. The TDA supported the nationals race on Memorial Day weekend. The Pee Dee Post apologizes for the error.>

Shortly before midnight Saturday, the official Ellerbe Lions Club Lawn Mower Racing Facebook page administrator posted that a reason for the suspension of racing would be provided “next week.”

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Sports

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  • Camilla Hudson

    Sorry to see this black mark on the Ellerbe Lion’s Club. I have been to the lawn mower races in Ellerbe and really enjoyed them.

    If venders are not being allowed to set up and sell because they are not members of the Lion’s Club then this is totally unfair. All should be able to join in. Fair is fair.

    As for the money taken in on Saturday night’s, maybe a third party should handle that part.

    I do hope that this mess gets straightened out. The lawn mower races are good for Ellerbe and good for Richmond County.

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