Excitement is building as staff and organizers at Area 53 Raceway near Forestburg gear up for an action-packed summer of racing.
“It was a group of local people who wanted to utilize an airport that wasn’t being used anymore – we started up a drag strip out of it and (it) was really all volunteers,” explained Corey Kozey, Area 53’s manager, referring to the beginnings of the facility.
That work was launched about three years ago, and since then it’s been a building up of awareness about the line-up of events that take place at Area 53 each season.
“The Camrose Cruisers use to put on an event once per year out here, and we decided that instead of having a ‘once a year’ event, we would start a group and make it a full-time event,” he said.
According to the Area 53 web site, “The long stretch of pavement that was the Forestburg Airport was just begging to have people race down its runway.
“At least the club thought so. The airport was decommissioned by the Municipality and a twenty-five year lease was signed giving control of the site to the Forestburg Power Sports Association.”
Coming up shortly is the Miles of Mayhem Drag N Drive event which runs July 5th-9th and includes Area 53 as part of the route.
“We will be one of the tracks that they stop at on their tour,” he said, adding that the event kicks off in Rimbey, then goes to Medicine Hat, then east to Saskatoon before heading back to the Area 53 Raceway and finally wrapping up back in Rimbey.
Miles Of Mayhem Drag n Drive is described as a five-day competition where street legal drag race cars run 1/8 mile time trials every day at four different tracks, while driving on public roads between each track unassisted by support vehicles, traveling over 1,700km.
In the meantime, Area 53 does feature a regular schedule of events.
And Kozey said with the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions that 150 spectators are currently allowed onsite.
Events are also slated to run June 26th/27th, July 3rd/4th and then there is the aforementioned Miles of Mayhem which hits Area 53 on July 8th.
Other weekend events runs July 17th/18th (this fills a time when the Stettler Car Club typically holds its 1/8th mile drags which have been cancelled this year).
Other featured events at Area 53 run Aug. 21st/22nd, Sept. 4th-6th, Sept. 18th/19th and Oct. 2nd/3rd, which marks the end of the season.
For Kozey, it’s not just about managing Area 53.
“I’ve been drag racing for many years,” he said, adding that it’s very much about the camaraderie and the opportunities to constantly meet new people that make it all that much more compelling.
“Just hanging out at the track with the guys – everyone is just so welcoming and friendly. It’s kind of more of a family than anything else,” he said.
“People really like it out here – it’s kind of a family-oriented racetrack where we are all friendly – we work as hard as we can to keep everyone accommodated. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
The site also encourages folks to explore racing as well.
“We are big into trying to get the young people out,” he said. “Last year, we offered a free track day where you could come out – 12 years and up with your parent and street vehicle.
“People could come out and try it and see if they liked it, as we are trying to get more people involved. And it wasn’t just kids – it was basically anybody who wanted to come out and try it and see what it was about.”