The roar of engines shouted on Main Street in Hermiston Saturday as some lightweight drag racing attracted crowds throughout the annual Hermiston Community FunFest.

The competitors raced on augmented lawn mowers and snowmobiles, but speed still was definitely a factor. Their engines roar, they burst with speed and explode a cloud of exhaust on the spectators near the starting line as the machines fall back on a triangular drag rig.

One racer, acclaimed announcer Brian Olson of Payette County, Idaho, boasts a 74 mph speed record for the 100-foot race.

"These machines go just a little bit too fast," he said before the races got started around 10 a.m. "If we had to blow your mind, we'd do it fast."

The lawnmower races down Main Street is one of the best events during FunFest, agreed Chairwoman Dani Smith.

"It's always a fantastic event," she said. "It just gets wild."

Other events filled Main Street and the Umatilla County Fairgrounds including vendors, a cookie bake-off, a dog show, a best-dressed watermelon contest, a teddy bear parade and a classic car show.

Smith said the FunFest is an event for all ages.

"I feel like it's a very important event for the entire community to be able to come out, not spend a whole lot of money and have a good time," she said.

Coyla Bedord, office manager at the Greater Hermiston Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

"It brings livability to the community," she said. " ... The more events you have, the more involved the community, the better it is for the community. It makes people come, stay and live here."

Back at the lawnmower races there were 12 competitors in two classes "A" machines and "AA" machines. "A" machines have a limited speed, while AA's will go as fast as racers can make them.

Cody Dean of Hermiston is in his third year of racing and took third place in the A division of the first race.

He may have done better, but in his final race, the battery disconnected in his machine, cutting out the power halfway through the short race.

He didn't seem upset, though.

"Can't win 'em all," he said.

His brother, Tim, also raced. He said the family got involved in lawnmower racing because of his father's friends in Idaho. The family built some machines, but most they bought from other racers.

Tim said he liked the Hermiston track compared to others like Pilot Rock, mainly because he'd wrecked both years competing there.

When asked what he enjoyed about racing, he said simply, "the fun and the speed."

Tim's fiancee, Kalley Graham, raced for the first time Saturday. She said she'd gone to others with the family in the past, but not raced before. She said she'd practiced, but in practice when it was time to go, someone just lowered their hands.

At the races in Hermiston, the track was equipped with a drag-racing "Christmas tree," that signals the start of each race.

"I've never used lights before," Graham said. "It just takes getting used to."

Now that she's tried her hand at it, Graham said she plans to keep racing in the future.

She said she likes just going fast.

"You don't worry about getting a ticket or whatever," she said. "It's doesn't matter if you place, you're just going for the fun of it. There's not much pressure."


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