On Tuesday afternoon, orange cones dotted the paved areas of the Great Bend Expo Complex, each marked a crack or potholes.
Equipped with a large yellow truck loaded with hot-mix asphalt and a steamroller, a crew from the Great Bend Street Department moved from cone to cone. They poured asphalt into the fissures, raked it into place then packed it down.
The work is being done in preparation for the Lucas Oil Series drag races scheduled for the dragstrip later this month. The races are part of what the city is billing as the Mega Motor Weekend that also includes the Great Bend Airfest at the Great Bend Municipal Airport and the Hahn Brothers Motocross Shootout at the city’s motocross track behind the Expo Complex buildings, both set for Sept. 28 and 29.
“This is for the events at the end of the month,” said Great Bend Street Superintendent James Giles. By the end of the day Wednesday, his guys had gone through four and a half tons of asphalt.
They may go out and do some more. But, Giles said they have to squeeze it in around their other projects.
A welcome mat
“This is just another way we are rolling out the red carpet for all the visitors that weekend,” said Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. “We’re just trying to make it pristine for this big event.”
On Sept. 5, the City Council heard a report on the condition of the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association drag strip and Expo Complex as a whole from SRCA President Hank Denning. He lamented the sorry condition of the area, noting he believes there needs to be a master maintenance plan established to repair the much-utilized facility.
Adding to the stress, Denning also said the Lucas Oil races will be bigger than ever. After heavy rains forced the cancelation of races in Iowa, the National Rod and Custom Association contacted Great Bend about absorbing the cancelled events at the historic SRCA site.
The races were set to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28-30, with about 300-400 cars taking part. Now, the races will start earlier in the week and as many as 800 cars could be involved.
So, when he visited with the council, Denning said the potholes in all corners of the Expo Grounds would be a danger to the high-performance cars, a tripping risk for attendees and would make a bad impression on those visiting the community. The races will take over the entire complex.
Now, intermediate steps are being taken.
“I’m so glad that we are able to be working together,” Hayes said of the repairs being made. “How they got overlooked for so long, I don’t know.”
As an historic note, the airfest and the races have a connection. Both the airport and the Expo area were part of the original World War II Army Airbase where B-29 bomber crews were trained.
After the base was decommissioned, it was turned over to the City of Great Bend. Part became the airport and part was eventually developed as the Expo Complex, with the dragstrip being one of the old airbase runways.