Racing Across Generations

Sunday, August 30, 2015
Little League. Theater camp. Swim team. All summertime activities for kids, with their families cheering them on from the sidelines.

In Canaan, motocross racing is also a family affair, where parents encourage young riders to compete in races on 50cc and 65cc motorcycles. Teenagers, young adults, mothers and fathers also race on machines that are as large as 250cc.

“We pride ourselves on being a family track,” said track chairman Bob Holmes, of Canaan. Holmes and 22 other volunteers from the Canaan Lions Club run the twice-monthly summertime races, the club’s biggest fundraiser.

When it’s time for the 6- and 7-year-older racers to take to the track, they’re in full protective gear on motorcycles that are suited to their size. The engines are only a fraction as powerful as the motor on an average walk-behind mower.

At the start of the race, five riders take off in a flurry. Sounding like a swarm of angry bees, the motorcycles climb uphill into the first turn.

Each rider is allowed one parent on the track, some of whom are donning riding gear for races they’ll run later in the day.

As the young racers hit a turn near the center of the track, parents shout encouragement and give a thumbs up.

There are the occasional spills, usually the result of a loss of momentum and a stalled motorcycle. Once a father or mother hustles across the track to get the motorcycle started, the rider is off again.

Three laps later, the first of two races for the day is done. After high-fives and a talk about their race, it’s time for hamburgers and fries at the snack bar.

It’s a bonding experience for everyone.

“I love watching all of the kids together. We didn’t know the other parents, but got to know them through racing,” said John Ignacio, of Canaan, who raced at the track as a teenager.

Ignacio’s son Johnny, 7, got a Honda 50cc motorcycle for his fifth birthday.

Easing into competition with a few races last summer and doing the whole schedule this year, Johnny won the season’s 50cc Junior class and is ready to race on a larger 65cc motorcycle.

Attendance numbers have been down in the past five to six years; this year, an average of 90 riders across all age groups compete on a Sunday, compared with 325 a decade ago and a record high 600 in 1986. But the fundraiser still benefits many projects in the Lions Club’s membership area of Canaan, Dorchester, Grafton and Orange.

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