Race Weekend Central

Get in Line….

The Fourth of July poses a problem this year. Allow me to explain.

My mother-in-law is a retired librarian in the town of Frankfort, Michigan. Despite her being retired, the size of my mother-in-law’s community enables her to remain connected to the local library and its current roster of staff.

In recent years, the library has taken part in the town’s traditional Fourth of July parade. This event is quintessential “small town America” with fire engines, kids on decorated bicycles, church floats, antique cars, and the local high school’s marching band. The library typically provides a float or display celebrating that year’s summer reading theme for the state of Michigan.

Last year’s theme was “Superheroes”, so my son donned his red-and-gold “Flash” costume and rode his scooter in the parade, touting his penchant for “speed” reading. He was surrounded by a dozen or more marchers who blended superhero outfits with the virtues of supporting their local library. A good time was had by all.

So what to do for this year’s parade?

The summer reading theme in Michigan this year is “Ready, Set, Read!” Staff at the library quickly leaned toward current events and suggested an “Olympics” theme that would allow staff and friends to wear all manner of athletic gear and wave American flags.

But they were sorely missing an obvious point.

“Ready, Set, Read”, to me (and many others), conjured up thoughts of racing. The phrase is customarily uttered at the beginning of a dash or a sprint, like one might have at a picnic, a reunion, or a school’s field day.

To me, the library’s parade marchers needed to celebrate racing in all its diverse forms.

My wife and I brainstormed possible depictions and the ideas came like a flood. We envisioned kids dressed in cycling gear on their decorated bikes and people jogging in shorts and tee-shirts. The idea of having someone wearing colorful clothes and riding a horse seemed both funny and doable, given that the Frankfort parade features many equestrian-based displays.

Then there was the 200-mph elephant drafting across the room.

“What about NASCAR?”

“We could do something tied to motorsports!”

There seemed to be any number of puns to use. A kid could turn his pedal car into a stock car and carry a sign encouraging people to “race” to the library for a good book. I could break out some of my old pit crew gear and have someone say that the library is a great place to “refuel”. Maybe it could be said that people never “tire” of a good read?

Racing, to us, made more sense as a parade display than the Olympics.

Maybe that’s because racing carries so much unrecognized interest for non-fans that’s hidden by natural curiosity. I learned this first hand more than ten years ago when Michigan schools celebrated “Ready, Set, Read!” as a library promotion. A local elementary school knew of my ties to NASCAR as both a writer and a part-time crew member, so I was asked to visit with the students and talk to them about motorsports.

Being an audience of elementary school kids, they were interested when I compared the speeds of various racing cars, the types of cars used, and the often wild-and-crazy colors used to make cars visible to fans. I showed them some of the gear I wore and explained how racing has made the cars they ride in both faster and safer.

And the kids paid attention. Several weeks later, a teacher from the school told me that her students could still recall facts and details from my presentation.

So what better way to draw attention to the local library than to have marchers touting the spectacles of speed we celebrate in motorsports? Build more interest by reminding the masses that racing is really very cool. I even suggested we get an area race team to add its car to the parade, or get a Michigander like Brad Keselowski or Erik Jones to take part?

Maybe Brad can bring one of the XFINITY or NCWTS rides he owns to Frankfort? Now THAT would make a parade to remember!

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