Before this weekend, the loudest engine you were likely to hear at France Park would be that of a lawnmower.
On Saturday, however, the park was roaring as it held its first all-terrain vehicle and off-road motorcycle races, an event park staff, competitors and spectators are calling a success they hope will return next year.
Zach Abram and Joe Patton, cousins who traveled from Bloomington to race Saturday, rested underneath an awning set up near their trucks and bikes after their race was over.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had on a bike,” Abram said of the 8.5-mile track that took him through France Park. “It was really fast, some technical stuff, some sand and a lot of rocks. They kept some logs in the trail, which I really like.”
Patton praised the track for its variety.
“There were a lot of hills and rocks and creeks,” he said. “It was really ideal.”
Abram took 13th place in his race and Patton took eighth. The two said they do it for fun and are glad they’re able to split gas when traveling to take part in their mutual hobby.
Patton said he wished more parks would open up to races like the one at France Park.
“Half the time, we’re out in a big open cornfield,” he said. “This is nice. Families can come out and enjoy it, and people can stay the weekend.”
France Park Superintendent Lucas Beach could hardly contain his excitement over how the event was going.
“I can’t even explain it,” he said. “It’s larger than I ever dreamed possible. Actually seeing all 400 dirtbikers in one spot, the sound, the enthusiasm from the crowd, it’s not something I could have envisioned even if I wanted to.”
With an estimated 1,400 to 1,800 people coming out solely for the races, bringing total park attendance to around 3,000 people Saturday, Beach went on to say it was the largest event he’s seen in Cass County.