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Celebration of Speedway 2012

 photos courtesy of Maggie Radcliffe

"Blue skies, sunshine and Speedway, what more could you ask for? All roads led to Paradise Wildlife Park and the annual WSRA  'Celebration of Speedway' day on Sunday as hundreds of fans  jammed the turnstiles and car parks eager to get their new Speedway season off to a flying start, and they were not disappointed.

Supporters flocked into the Park, filling the Museum , the Events Marquee and the outdoor display area, almost as soon as gates were opened.   Bang on 11am, the Celebration of Speedway Opening Ceremony was a wall of noise as Douglas, Jap and Jawa machines were fired up and that lovely whiff of "Speedway Aftershave", Castrol 'R' filled the air whilst older fans reminisced about the long lost days when Speedway machines did not have to run with silencers,...pure Speedway magic. This continued on the hour every hour when the roar of these unsilenced beasts could be heard.

The new extended Museum with new exhibits, new television sets showing everything from Ice Racing to World Finals, was well received by all the visitors and the Museum shop was kept busy selling shirts, books and back numbers of Speedway Stars. One of the new exhibits is a mechanic in the workshop "welding"  a frame, with blue sparks lighting up the wall, whilst Ove Fundin's leathers, recently brought over from Australia and presented to the Museum by Japanese rider, Jimmy Ogisu, take pride of place on the wall above Ivan Mauger's bikes and alongside Jason Crump's Kevlars, a nice mix of old and new World Champions.

Next door, in the big 'Events Marquee', normally used for weddings and dances, had a Speedway bike on the stage and stands selling everything from old programmes to body colours, DVDs and even the new 'hot-off-the-press' Three Kiwi Kings book about three of our ex-VSRA Presidents, Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger so everyone there was happy with the excellent turnout.

Presenter, Craig Saul handled the interviews with his usual polished performance,, extracting interesting opinions from Speedway folk such as double World Champion, Freddie Williams, Colin Pratt, Karl Fiala and many more including the Mayor of Waltham Abbey, Clr. Anthony Watts  resplendent in his Chain of Office.

WSRA member, John Chaplin, who, with Peter Lipscombe launched the original 'High Beech  Party' at the King's Oak Hotel in Epping Forest,  presented an Odsal (Bradford) blazer which belonged to Ron Clarke to Peter Sampson for display in the Museum. The blazer had just arrived from Ron Clarke's daughter in America who wanted her father's memory to be kept alive in the UK.

Former Hackney and Swedish favourite, Bengt Jansson  who had flown over from Stockholm for the event, was brought on stage to draw the raffle which included prizes such as tickets for the Cardiff GP, tickets for the Benevolent  Fund meeting at Birmingham, a training day at the 'My First Skid' Speedway School, a limited edition autographed action print by artist, Jim Blanchard of Tai Woofinden, a signed  Ivan Mauger race jacket and much more. All the proceeds going towards funding a new wheelchair for Australian Mike Letch, raising £1,250  towards the chair, so a big 'Thank you' to everyone for their generosity.  

There had been plenty of publicity for the event in Speedway Star, Classic Speedway and on the web, and it attracted a huge crowd which would have been welcomed at most tracks these days. Amongst the outdoor displays were everything from World Champions' bikes to autographed body colours and to our latest edition,.....a section of the infamous steel "safety" fence from the County Ground at Exeter, complete with tyre marks!

A big Thank you has to go to all the exhibitors and to the fans who turned up on this sunny but cold Sunday, Janet and Dingle Brown were kept busy on the WSRA stand, selling ties, polo shirts and badges and a big 'Thank you to Rye House and Peterborough who were the only British clubs to take up the offer of a free display on the day. Peterborough did a fantastic job bringing  their "Road Show"  along with their Panthers' Marquee featuring a bike and TV showing races from the Showground and they also brought along their fabulous "Grid Girls" and Panthers mascots who spent the day giving out leaflets and Peterborough Panthers Balloons  and even helping to sell tickets for the Mike Letch Fund Raffle, they really put the other clubs to shame and showed just what can be done to promote Speedway and your team. Other clubs missed an ideal pre-season opportunity to  promote their team, hand out fixture lists and generally increase awareness of what they are doing in 2012, but perhaps they will join us next year and make it an even bigger Celebration of Speedway  in 2013 .

And so, as the nostalgic aroma of Castrol 'R' and hamburgers faded away, everyone was leaving with a smile of their faces saying what a wonderful day it had been and vowing to come back during the season to revisit the Museum and the Wildlife Park, hoping for yet more blue skies, sunshine and Speedway" 

BERT HARKINS

"What A Celebration!"   by  Bert Harkins

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