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2016 WSRA Celebration of Speedway
Report by Bert Harkins

“The weather may have been windy and cloudy but there was a warm welcome for everyone at the annual WSRA Celebration of Speedway at Paradise Wildlife Park on Sunday. 21st February.

Speedway-starved  fans turned up in their hundreds to the event and at one time, the queue of cars coming into the Park stretched all the way back to the village. A word of apology to the visitors who had difficulty parking. As you know, on our Speedway Day, the Park is still open to  “normal” (if I can use that word!) visitors and the car parks were soon overflowing. The main problem was that the usual overflow car park was still undergoing resurfacing work and the other field we normally use was too wet and soggy to park the cars, but once the major ground work is done by Easter,  we won’t have that problem again.

The atmosphere around the show was electric with everyone enjoying the day and the aroma of Castrol ‘R’ as the unsilenced Japs and Jawas were fired up every hour on the hour…….If you could bottle that fragrance you would make fortune selling it to Speedway fans word wide!. . The Speedway Museum was packed all day long and the undercover Barbeque area had a constant stream of customers, so everyone was well fed with the Castrol ‘R’ hot dogs and burgers.

Great to see Peterborough, Mildenhall, Isle of Wight and Rye House all supporting the show and they all generated extra publicity for their clubs.  I am always surprised that more promoters do not take this open opportunity to meet the fans and PROMOTE their club.  It is one day in the year where every club could and should be there handing out fixture lists and trying to coax a few more fans through their turnstiles as surely every extra spectator is a bonus.

Our WSRA Speedway Museum is available for any promoter to advertise or promote his club but unfortunately, no-one takes up the idea.  It would be worthwhile for every team to have their fixture list available to hand out to visitors and PROMOTE their club, especially to the many non-Speedway people who visit the Wildlife Park and then pop into the Museum.  Surely every extra fan is a bonus for any track?  There was a “Meet The Promotors Fans’ Forum”  arranged for the same day (Sunday) in Rugby, and that was a very unfortunate clash of dates but I hear that there was not a very good attendance at the event whilst we had over 1,000 people visiting our Celebration of Speedway. Perhaps next year the promoters could hold their Fans Forum at The Celebration of Speedway  in Paradise Wildlife Park as I am sure that they would be pleasantly surprised at the huge and enthusiastic turnout we get at this WSRA event.

Our Presenter, Craig Saul was kept busy interviewing the many celebrities on stage in the Marquee with Bruce Cribb and Karl Fiala plugging Cribby’s forthcoming book, whilst Dave Morton, John Chaplain and Reg Fearman were all signing copies of their books for the fans. Great to see Poole legend, Ken Middleditch coming along for the first time along with son, Neil. Ken  still looks fighting fit at 91 years old  and enjoyed his day out with the bikes. For many years, Ken restored and rode vintage motorcycles including a Brough Superior  which was claimed to be one of the bikes owned by Lawrence of Arabia who died in a road bike accident not far from Ken’s Sturminster Marshall home in Dorset..

One of the great attractions of the Celebration is the ‘Collectors’ Fayre’ in the Marquee where programmes, books, photographs and memorabilia from pre- war to modern days can be purchased. One happy customer was David Williams, son of double World Champion, and former WSRA President, Freddie Williams. David was able to find the two Wembley World Final programmes from 1950 and 1953 when his dad won his two titles.  David didn’t follow his dad’s footsteps, or tyre treads into Speedway although he did have a small mini bike when he was very young.  Instead, David followed a safer career by becoming a professional golfer, travelling to major tournaments all over the world and he is now an integral part of the Professional Golfers’ Association.

Speedway Star, Retro Speedway and ‘The Voice’ were all on hand for reader subscriptions and were busy all day whilst over on our World Speedway Riders’ Association stand, we were recruiting new members, both Full and Associate plus selling tickets for the WSRA Dinner Dance and Awards Night at the Leicester Marriott on 12th March. (see advert in Speedway Star or HERE). Remember that you don’t need to have been a rider to come to the dinner.  Barry Briggs will be there to collect his Lifetime Achievement Award and  2015 President, Richard Greer will be handing over the Chain of Office to  our new President, former World Champion, Mark Loram.

Over on the Travel Plus stand, James Easter and his Merry Men were taking bookings for their many Speedway tours and selling a natty line of T-shirts and jackets and announcing that they will be doing some National League sponsoring this year.

The outdoor area was buzzing too with bikes from all ages of Speedway including Darcy Ward’s machine on the Tim Templeton stand along with body colours signed by all the World Champions. Former rider, Russell Paine was kept busy signing up new applicants for his ‘Ride n Slide’ school; where you can rent all the gear and have expert instruction on how to ride a Speedway bike. Now then, where did I put that application form?

Many fans also took the opportunity of visiting the Wildlife Park too and by the end of the day, as the stands were being dismantled and the bikes put away, everyone was full of praise for their great day of Speedway and family fun. Thanks must go to all the exhibitors and fans who travelled from all over the country and also former rider and Park owner, Peter Sampson for his help in organising the whole event and supplying his staff to help out, without Peter and his family, we would be unable to stage such a great event. Paradise Wildlife Park is now the WSRA Headquarters and remember that WSRA members can get into the Park free of charge as many times as they like during the year.

Our WSRA organised Celebration of Speedway is growing every year and gives great encouragement for the season ahead.  As fans made their way home, everyone said that they are looking forward to NEXT year’s event already when it promises to be even bigger and better than this year”

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