Melting Pot Month comes to a busy close
BY DALE HOGG
This weekend wraps up the Melting Pot Month in Great Bend, and a busy weekend it will be, said Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes.
“We are super excited about the finale’ of the events, there is so much going on in town,” she said. “We encourage you to get out and try something different.”
Events this weekend include:
• Barton Community College theater production of “A Piece of My Heart”
Barton Theatre will perform the Vietnam-era drama “A Piece of My Heart,” by Shirley Lauro at 7:30 p.m. today (Thursday, Sept. 26) and Friday in the Fine Arts Auditorium. The production focuses on the story of six women (five nurses and one musician) who are sent to Vietnam and how their experiences in a war-torn country impact their lives. The play is based on actual interviews and first-hand accounts of war-time events. All tickets are general admission, and are available at the door.
• Second-annual Benefit Bull Riding Event
The Second Annual Bryce Moran Benefit Bull Ride will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Expo III Building at the Great Bend Expo Complex. Gate Opens at 5:30 p.m. (use far west entrance). Cost is a $12 donation at the Gate, or $5 for 4-13 years of age with kids 3 and under getting in free. Bryce Moran was injured in a motorcycle accident, and all proceeds from this event will go to help Bryce with his medial bills and expenses.
• Run for Life Suicide Prevention and Awareness Run
The first-ever “Golden Belt Run for Life” event will be held Saturday at BCC. The Suicide Prevention & Awareness event will include a Survivors Ceremony, and is presented by the Central Kansas Partnership Suicide Prevention Task Force. It includes walking, running and cycling. Refreshments available for all participants. Proceeds will be used to sponsor community suicide prevention education. Check-in will begin at 6:30 a.m., with events starting at 7 a.m.
• Big Bend Bike Rally and new motocross race
The sixth-annual Big Bend Bike Rally is set for Saturday. All day beer garden with live music, daredevil performances, Run What Ya Brung drag strip racing, vendors, nitro bike exhibitions, motorcycle parade ride, and other attractions will draw approximately 2,000 people to the Great Bend Expo Complex. New this year is the addition of a regional motocross race, called the Hahn Brothers Supercross Shootout. Admission is just $10 per person, with kids getting in for half price. Gates open at 7 a.m. and the event runs until midnight.
• Kiwanis Bike Race, Brit Spaugh Park at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
• Great Bend Renaissance Fair
The Great Bend Renaissance Fair will be open for two days of festivities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Brit Spaugh Park. General admission is $6, with kids 6 to 12 at $3, and kids under 5 free.
• Cancer Center Balloon Launch at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
• Mission Concert, Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Motorcycles will dominate the Great Bend Expo Complex Saturday as the stage is set for the sixth-annual Big Bend Bike Rally and Hahn Brothers Supercross Shootout.
“For five consecutive years, the complex has been a destination for hundreds of motorcycle riders looking for a place to kick back and cut loose,” said Rachel Mawhirter, marketing coordinator for the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. “The Big Bend Bike Rally puts Great Bend on the map for motorcycle drag racing, live music, and family friendly biker entertainment to thousands of enthusiasts all over the country. And now, the growing annual event will be hitting a whole new demographic of race enthusiasts.”
This year, there will also be the first-ever shootout making its debut at the rally, Mawhirter said. Hosted by nationally famous professional motocross racers Wil and Tommy Hahn, the inaugural motocross event is anticipated to significantly boost attendance because of several unique factors that make it one-of-a-kind.
“First, the motocross race is the only one like it that is hosted by world renown professional riders,” she said. The Hahns grew up racing in and around Great Bend, and consider this to be their home track.
After an EMT was injured at a race in the early 90s, the track was torn down. Now with the help of numerous sponsors and a team of local volunteers, the pro riders are making their mark in the Midwest once again on a newly constructed track.
“We remember racing at the Great Bend track, and we might’ve had mullets sticking out of our helmets,” Wil Hahn said. “My brother and I are excited about giving back to this community by putting our name on this inaugural race and pulling in all our professional racing buddies to draw a huge crowd.”
Wil is a professional member of the Geico’s racing team, and travels the country chasing race purses and national titles to compete for cash. His most notable victory was claiming the American Motorcyclist Association’s coveted Eastern Regional 250SX Championship in June of this year.
Wil’s older brother, Tommy, is not currently racing with a sponsored team, but has made quite a name for himself throughout his impressive professional career.
In addition to the name recognition behind this new event, the second factor that will draw a huge turnout is the $7,500 purse for professional riders. Two national brands, Skullcandy and Muscle Milk, have partnered with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development and dozens of other local sponsors to put up a huge purse – a key factor in drawing the professional riders.
The bulk of the riders who come to these events are between the ages of 6 and 18, said Todd Smith and Trent Mermis, co-chairs for the event committee. The more pro riders who announce that they are coming to Great Bend, the more the kids will want to come and meet them.
A third factor working to the favor of the Great Bend track is the timing of the event. “The traditional AMA competition season concludes in late August, so all the professional racers will be itching for something to do,” Hahn said. “And because so many of them raced in Great Bend at one time or another, it’s also turning into a big reunion for everyone. Being centrally located in the United States is also a good thing.”
Committee volunteers have been putting in long hours on evenings and weekends to build the new dirt track, under the supervision of general contractor Amerine Utilities Construction. These committee members include Trent Mermis (Shelter Insurance), Todd and Tallan Smith (TNT Renovations), Craig Amerine (Amerine Utilities Construction), Nelson Stone (Stone Sand), Wade Morris (Morris Welding), Lexie Brack (TLC Discoveries), and Derik Wilson (Eldridge Fencing).
The new track is being constructed on the north edge of the Great Bend Expo Complex, giving spectators and racers plenty of room for seating and mingling near the shaded parking areas. “Our partnership with the City of Great Bend and the Barton County Fair Board is crucial to the success of this event,” Mawhirter said.
“We are building the track on city property, and they have been very supportive thus far,” she said. “The Fair Board has rearranged their ATV track and offered insight and in-kind support for race day operations. Without our partners, volunteers, and sponsors, this new endeavor would not have been possible.”
While the motocross race will have a huge draw all on its own, it doesn’t hurt that the biggest motorcycle rally in the region will be happening on the same day at the same facility. The rally is anticipated to draw over 2,000 riders from all over the Midwest, who come to Great Bend as a destination for live music, drag racing, stunt performances, and biker camaraderie. Free camping also makes it worth the drive for lots of bikers.
“Our rally is unique because of the jam packed entertainment schedule,” said rally founder Robin Fabricius. “Every bike rally in the country has live music and beer drinking, but very few offer the Run What Ya Brung drag racing, stunt shows, parade ride, and other attractions that put us on the map.”
It started with about 1,000 riders in 2008, and have grown every year. “People ride from hundreds of miles to be a part of this event, and it’s becoming a tradition for many of them,” Fabricius said.
A special meet-and-greet event has been scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Thursday Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend. Community residents and motocross fans can meet the professional racers who are putting their name behind the Great Bend event, and get exclusive photograph and autograph opportunities. The meet-and-greet is free to attend, and is open to the public.
That weekend, spectators pay just $10 per person to see both of these huge attractions, and kids under twelve are half price. Gates open at 7 a.m. on Saturday and entertainment doesn’t stop until midnight. The Big Bend Bike Rally and the Hahn Brothers’ Supercross Shootout are both part of Melting Pot Month in Great Bend.