Dirt track racing has been a part of the rural South for years and a new go-kart super speedway recently constructed in southern Greenville County will continue the tradition.
The Possum Kingdom Super Speedway will open gates for the first official night of kart racing this Saturday, July 27.
The new facility is described as one of the largest and nicest in the U. S., with a 1/4 mile oval dirt track for kart racers and a concession stand, restaurant and restroom facilities for spectators.
Owners Tim Ellison, Paul Cothran and Greg Cothran have put a tremendous amount of time, energy and money into making the facility one of the best in the Southeast.
Local and regional races have cash prizes ranging from $100 to $3,000 and draw as many as 175 to 250 racers to an event, according to Ellison.
A regional race planned for Sept. 20 & 21 will have a total purse of $25,000, the track owners said.
Racing divisions include approximately 15 classes from beginner to senior stock. The youngest division, a restricted plate class, includes drivers as young as 8 years old.
They race every week. They eat, dream and sleep it. Some do it for a living, according to Ellison.
The heart of kart racing is in the Greenville area, Ellison said. Some of the biggest names are from the Greenville area.
Ellsion said he was first drawn to the sport through his son, Christopher, who wanted to start racing.
After investing in a used kart purchased from Randy Smith, of Belton, Ellison said he joined the other enthusiasts and traveled to tracks in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
We saw what they were doing, or not doing, Ellison said. We thought we could do it better.
After talking with Paul Cothran, who had the property in South Greenville, Ellison, Cothran and son Greg, decided to build a super speedway with the extras to make it family friendly and one of the best.
We built a facility to cater to the ladies and grandmothers, he said.
That includes clean restrooms and a fully stocked restaurant that serves old fashioned cut french fries, hotdogs with homemade chili, hamburgers, fresh pizza, cotton candy, and seating for up to 60 people.
The project has taken about a year and a half to complete, Ellison said.
There are other tracks located in the upstate area including Fountain Inn, Hodges, and larger tracks in nearby Carnesville Ga. and Riverside N. C.
We are one of the top, Ellison said.
An article in Karting magazine supports the statement. World Karting Association president Randy Kugler said in his article that it is a first-class facility that will be a great boost for karting in the area.
Kart racers began practicing on the 1/4 mile clay oval about three weeks ago.
A practice session last week drew more than 30 racers, who came to try out the new track.
Ellison said he expects many more this week for the grand opening of the new super speedway.
Feedback has been all positive, he said. You just dont see facilities like we have, he adds.
The track includes spectator stand seating for 360 people and spectators can bring their own chairs or sit on the back of vehicles backed to the fence. There is not a bad seat in the house, Ellison said. Its an exciting sport.
Racers can go 3-wide, according to Ellison. The 1/4 mile track is as big as they come. Most are smaller. It also has lights. It is the Talledega of dirt tracks.
It is also fast. Stock division racers reach speeds of 65 mph, modifieds up to 80 mph, and the 2 cycle racers can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph.
Races often have 25-30 karts with 10 laps in a heat and a 15 lap main event.
Part of the excitement, as with any race, is spinouts.
They come out of the groove, and are subject to spin out on loose dirt, Ellison said. They call it hitting the marbles.
Persons interested in getting into the sport can expect to spend a minimum of $1,500 for a used kart. An average racer can invest about $5,000 for the kart, tires and motor. Others spend more.
A number of locals are involved in the sport including Randy Smith of Belton, Eric Sargeant of Pelzer, Steve Heatherly of Pelzer, and Travis Ellsion of Williamston, just to name a few.
Local racers and drivers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and even Tennessee will be at the facility for the first race Saturday.
We are ten years ahead of our time, Ellison said. It is a place families can come. It was made for families and built by a family. Were here to provide an affordable, exciting evening of family entertainment.
Ellison and partners Paul and Greg Cothran invite the community to come out and see what the sport of kart racing is all about at one of the best kart racing facilities in the southeast, located right here in Possum Kingdom.
Gates open Saturday at 4 p.m. Racing begins a 6 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, children 10 and under are admitted free and age 60 and over are $8.
The facility is located just off Hwy. 247 on Acker Rd. in Possum Kingdom.
Directions: Hwy. 247 from Belton or Ware Place, turn beside South Greenville Fire Department onto Acker Rd. The track is about one mile on the right.
For more information call (864) 847-1756.
The 21st annual Spring Water Festival will be held Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Williamstons Mineral Spring park.
For the first time ever, Town officials are taking responsibilty for the event.
Town employee Jamie Carter is coordinating the festival which has been organized by individuals since it began as a fundraising event for the Christmas Park in 1981.
Carter said the festival will feature more than 50 craft exhibitors, food, an antique auto show and childrens rides including a rock climbing wall and a water wars game.
Craft applications are still being accepted, however there are only a few spaces left, according to Carter. Spaces will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
Crafters from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia are expected to participate in this years festival.
Handpainted clothing and jewelry crafted of brass, silver, and copper will be available. Folk art and pastel paintings and art prints, ceramics, painted tinware, sand art, wreaths, and florals will also be offered.
Local artist Thomas Addison, who has contributed artwork for the festival throughout its history, will offer limited and signed prints.
Addison also contributed artwork featuring the Williamston Municipal Center (Town Hall) for the 2002 festival. T-shirts featuring the art should be available soon, Carter said.
The design ties in with the Towns 150th Anniversary Celebration.
The Sesquicentennial committee will also be offering souvenirs including hats, pillows, afghans, tote-bag, and limited edition, numbered souvenir plates. These items are currently on sale at Town Hall.
Cox Amusements of Greenville will return with kiddie rides, including an inflatable bounce, trackless train, castle moonwalk, inflatable obstacle course, kiddie swing and water wars games.
The Greater Williamston Business Association is sponsoring a prize drawing give-away.
A variety of businesses and other organizations are also expected to display at the festival. Anyone interested in participating should contact Carter at Town Hall.
The 2002 festival will feature a variety of entertainment including gospel, bluegrass, country and rock.
The Williamston Fire Department is again sponsoring the festivals auto show, which will include 75 to 100 local antique and classic autos.
Owners may register their vehicles between 8 a.m. and noon. A $10 registration fee will be charged. Awards will be given to the top 50 vehicles. Five specialty awards, including best Chevrolet, best Ford, best truck and Mayors choice will be presented.
Persons interested in displaying a customized vehicle in the show should call 847-4155 or 847-4950 for more information.
The fire department will also be offering $1 rides on the restored 1936 Chevrolet fire engine.
Local non-profit groups will be offering a variety of food items including hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue, hot wings and chicken fillets.
A special 21st anniversary Spring Water Festival program tabloid will be published by The Journal prior to the festival.
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