For more than forty years, the Primghar Jaycees Figure 8 Races have been an unyielding source of excitement for race enthusiasts in northwest Iowa. The season generally runs from June through August on alternating Saturdays. During the annual O'Brien County Fair at the end of July, which has it's grounds connected to the race track and pit area, a race is held on the Wednesday night of the fair.
I've never been much of a NASCAR fan or any other type of race aficionado for that matter, but I have a truly soft spot in my heart for the Primghar Figure 8 races. These days, I get to maybe one race a year and it tends to bring a rush of nostalgia for my days growing up in the area and exhibiting at the county fair.
Though a lot of things have continued to get more expensive over the years, the cost of admission is still a pretty good deal for a few hours of high octane entertainment. Proceeds from the various elements of the races (sponsorships, admission, concessions, etc) fund the numerous philanthropic causes championed by the Jaycees.
A few family members and I made it to the final race of the 2018 season. It was a near perfect early August evening.
A lot of people had the same idea about spending this summer night outside. There's ample parking at the O'Brien County fairgrounds and that is good because the races usually draw a strong turnout.
There are lots of bleachers for race fans to sit on. However, some will sit on chairs or blankets down front.
The track is exactly as it is described in the name - it's in the shape of an 8. It is dirt though it is usually watered down before each race to minimize dust.
On the other side of the track is the pit where the driver and his OR her team get the car ready to race. It's also an area where the emergency personnel are parked and where the skid-loader idles until it is needed to help a car get off the track.
At intermission, the concession stand is a popular place.
Like the men and women who flag the races and get things organized to run smoothly, the concession stand is also run by volunteers. It takes a dedicated group each race night.
The Jaycees (Junior Chamber) are actively looking for more volunteers to join their organization. According to their Facebook page, "The Primghar Jaycees are a nonprofit organization and are a chapter of the United States Junior Chamber. The Primghar Jaycees are actively recruiting young men and women in the South O’Brien School District. The Primghar Jaycees meet the 3rd Tuesday of every month to discuss how past events have gone and any new events coming up. Some of the events hosted by the Primghar Jaycess are: Super Shooters, Sandbox Fill, Easter Egg Hunt, Soccer, Figure 8 Races, Cookie Decorating for the Elderly, and Adopt A Family. They also donate to after Prom and may other things."
A program is produced for each race with updated season standings, a roster of racers, sponsors, wall of fame, and more. Each program is numbered and if your number is called at intermission, you win a prize.
The actual racing is high adrenaline. It starts with a series of heats and then is followed with a series of feature races. There will also be a trophy dash. The amount of races on a given night will depend on the quantity of drivers. However, usually there are around 10 or so.
Each race starts with all of the cars packed together but that will very quickly change. Each race will have a pre-determined number of laps.
Because of the formation of the track, there can be some close calls at the intersection. I've witnessed some major collisions there in years past.
Sometimes, things can get a little rowdy and a car can lose a tire, get crunched up a bit, or even end up needing help off the track.
The skid-loader often ends up helping quite a few cars by the end of the night.
Mostly, it's just good aggressive racing.
Usually, the racing goes long enough to be fully under the lights and that can be a very pretty sight.
Since this was the last race of the season, additional trophies were awarded for season point totals. However, there is always a trophy dash each race. The winning racers will drive up on the top of the track near the audience to claim their trophies.
Eventually, the race is over and everyone heads home.
Primghar is not the only place in Iowa where summer races, in some format, are held. These types of social and entertainment events are always fun. It's yet another reminder that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a memorable and entertaining evening.
Not to mention, it's volunteers who make sure these races continue to happen. It's a big commitment and a big undertaking. However, it's groups like the Primghar/South O'Brien Jaycees that make rural Iowa the special place that it is. If you have never been to Primghar, I'd encourage you to make the journey to O'Brien County this summer to take in a race. There's plenty to do and see in the area. Not to mention, you can tell your friends that you've been to the only Primghar in the world!