Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They're Mowers, but Not Built for Cutting Grass; Clay County Fair Will Feature Riding Mowers Racing at Up to 60 MPH

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They're Mowers, but Not Built for Cutting Grass; Clay County Fair Will Feature Riding Mowers Racing at Up to 60 MPH

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MARIE APOLLO

A 50-horsepower engine.

Speeds up to 60 mph.

Drivers as young as 16 and as old as 63.

It's no NASCAR, but it's not bad for a riding lawn mower.

The Clay County Agricultural Fair will give racing fans from both camps - be they fans of Jeff Gordon or John Deere - something to cheer for this week. The fair will host for the first time the GreenSouth Classic, an exhibition by the Sebring-based Florida Lawnracing Association.

Those with the need for a little bit more speed can check out show cars from Gordon and Quaker State and line up April 14 to meet hot-rod driver Kenny Tran.

It's the 21st year for the fair, and although crowd-pleasing staples like the midway continue to please, organizers hope to bring more than 100,000 people through the gates with a variety of attractions, from military discounts and exhibitions to a high school reunion for the Penney Farms School.

The Clay County Fair starts Thursday at 4 p.m. and runs through April 14. Tickets are $8 for adults; those 65 and older and children 6 to 15 get in for half price and kids under 6 are admitted free. The fairgrounds are on Florida 16, 4 miles west of Green Cove Springs.

It is Friday, the fair's second day, that will see mowers growling through the grass.

Pete Sutton, the fair's manager, said a pit party at 7 p.m. will let kids and parents check out the machines and get autographs from the drivers. Racing starts an hour later.

The vehicles might look familiar.

Tom Ast, president of the Florida Lawnracing Association, said racers take the same residential mowers used to cut the lawn and soup them up so that they go anywhere from 22 mph to well past 60 mph.

There is no way to get that kind of speed, or safety, from what's sitting in the family garage, though, he warns. The mowers have been taken apart and put back together again, strengthened and stabilized.

The association's 48 members, who travel the state and the country on their mowers, might be cutting edge, but they aren't actually cutting the grass. …

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