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Written By: Chad Gillen
Thanksgiving is a time of traditions. Such as gathering with family. Enjoying a dinner with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Watching dirt bike racing like Supercross. And maybe some Black Friday shopping. Wait…What? Supercross? You mean watching football, right? Well, not if you are like the Peterson family or the Bleyenberg family. Or about 800 other families in the Sioux Empire who think Thanksgiving and Supercross, an indoor version of Motocross, go hand in hand.
Over 16 years ago the Petersons from Volga got the idea to have Supercross racing on Thanksgiving weekend. They were a dirt bike racing family and it seemed like the right thing to do. With a little guidance from Jim LeTendre on how to put it on, they have been Supercross racing on Thanksgiving ever since. For the past 15 years, they’ve held the event at the Brookings Swiftel Center. But there was a longing for more. So this year the event was moved to the Expo building at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls. And it was a 2-stroke roaring success.
With an abundance of local sponsorships, 16 semi-truck loads of dirt were brought in and groomed into a track over several days. A lot of grooming had to be redone as the frost in the dirt thawed and made the track too muddy. There was Supercross racing Friday and Saturday, and new for this year Flat Track racing Sunday. To change the course over to the flat track oval, the Peterson family and friends worked overnight from 12AM to 6AM! Ages of racers ranged from the Pee Wee class at age 4 to the Pro classes over age 40. Around 840 racers entered the Supercross and Flat Track, with 70 races on Friday, 80 on Saturday, and 20 on Sunday. Admission was only $10 a day.
Two entries in the Supercross racing were from the Bleyenberg family from Hartford, SD. They are a lot like other families I saw that weekend: a motorcycle family that enjoys the sport together. They don’t notice the 2-stroke exhaust fumes stinging their eyes or the engine noise because motorcycles are in their blood. Rush, age nine, raced in the 65cc class and Jamie, age 16, raced in the 250cc C class.
Rush started riding a Yamaha TTR50 at age three. He later changed to a KTM 50, and now he rides a 2006 KTM 65 2-stroke which he got in the fall of 2017. He is currently #5 in his class in overall points in the 4GMX series in Rapid City. Jamie started with a Kawasaki KLX110 at age 5. He had a Yamaha TTR125, a Kawasaki KX85, and Yamaha YZ85, a Honda CR125 and now he has a 2008 KTM 250F 4-stroke which he got in 2013. He is currently #2 in his class in overall points in the 4GMX series. Not only do they race Supercross in the 4GMX series, but they also race Motocross at the Saddleback Race track at Sioux Valley Cycle Club in Sioux Falls, and at the Fiddler Creek MX Park in Homer, NE. They are supported by their sister Ava, age 15, who used to race Jamie’s old Kawasaki KX85, but gave that up to ride horses instead. Her current ride is named “Rosie” but she does want to ride two wheels again (hopefully a KTM 390 Duke). Their mother Jen used to ride a Kawasaki Ninja 250, before the children came along. Now she is the safety monitor, videographer, coach and cheerleader. Their father Verlyn raced as an amateur for seven years in Michigan when he was young and gave it up once he became a family man. His ride is a 2002 Yamaha a YZ250F. Now, like many other dads out there, he lives vicariously through his children.
Verlyn hopes that someday the kids will be invited to the AMA amateur MX nationals in Hurricane Mills, TN at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, and that some scout will pick them up to join a professional MX team. Jamie hopes to go pro someday as well, but will also be happy to move up to the 250B class first. And Rush would love to go pro and make “big money!”
When asked if they prefer indoor SuperCross or outdoor Motocross: Ava says she prefers SuperCross for the smaller jumps. Rush prefers Motocross because of the bigger jumps. Jamie says he prefers Motocross but right now he is faster at Supercross. Jamie describes himself as a lot more cautious or calculated than Rush. Rush is one whom sees an opening and takes it. Jamie says that getting the holeshot off the starting line is important, but you also have to know the correct techniques to pass in the corners. Rush says he got over his fear of jumps by just rolling over them at first and then going faster and faster every lap. He now flies over the jumps. They all agree that having their own practice area at their acreage is a big advantage for them. They plan on adding 30 to 40 more tons of dirt to it this spring. When asked if they ever could imagine not riding motorcycles, silence filled the room from bewilderment at the notion. They all say there is a lot of camaraderie and help in the Motocross community. A lot of fist bumps are exchanged between riders before and after races. If you are broke down, need help or need a spare part, numerous people will step forward. Motocross can cause injuries, but so can any popular team sport. Verlyn suggests money should be allotted to proper riding gear first before getting a new bike. Motocross is an individual sport and teaches a lot of personal responsibility because it comes down to just the rider and his bike during the race. Verlyn says his family takes pride in their practice and they work hard to clean and maintain their own bikes. Their bikes are always ready to ride. They also believe in positive attitudes and positive coaching. Ill words are not spoken about themselves or others.
Many families have the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing what you are thankful for at the dinner table. This year Jaimie replied, “I’m thankful for dirt bike riding.” And who could disagree? If you are interested in starting a new Thanksgiving tradition of watching dirt bike racing, join us next year at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds. If you’re interested in starting dirt bike riding, contact your nearest motorcycle dealer or MX cycle club.