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Riders revved at Grand Prix's return to Florence

Staff writer

The population of Florence must have been 20 times higher than normal Sunday for a revival of an event begun in honor of the town’s centennial.

The Florence Grand Prix motorcycle race was begun 50 years ago, lasted about six years, and was revived for Florence’s 150th birthday.

At least two racers, both in their 80s, originally raced in the 1970s. Clint Litsey, 83, who lives in Sedgwick and is in the middle of a week of radiation treatment, competed.

So did Thad Davis, 82, Wichita, who was joined by his son and grandson from Houston. The son and grandson rode bikes Davis rebuilt for the race.

Eager racers came Sunday from near and far to straddle their machines, bring the engines to roaring life, and race a course that traversed streets, fields, woods, and the city dike, sometimes driving through mud left by recent rains.

People lined the streets, sitting in portable chairs and on benches where they could find them. Many more people stood along the edge of the fenced-off race track.

Parking spaces near the race course were at a premium.

Motorcycles roared past, some riders seated and others standing.

The course started at 5th and Main St., then wended its way through town and areas surrounding town.

Race organizers had to put up an extra barricade to block off 1st St. because somebody was driving through the crowd.

Cindy Moore positioned herself by the Harvey House to watch the racers zoom past.

Her son, Gavin Moore, was a competitor. Her husband, Eric Moore, competed in earlier races before the Grand Prix took a four-decade hiatus.

Michael Short came from Dearborn, Missouri, to race as a team with Andres Huber of McPherson. Both arrived Sunday morning. The pair sat in chairs downtown and visited before the team race began. They said they came just to have fun.

Eric Lee came from Wichita to race his Beta in the professional class.

“I figured if I signed up in the professional class, I’d ride hard,” he said.

Dave McNaughton brought his military motorcycle from Goddard to compete in the 50-plus class.

Dodge City resident Cindy Cammack watched from 5th St., holding a sign with a cutout of racer Luke King from Woodland Park, Colorado.

“There’s a lot of mud out there, so it’s going to be a survival race,” said Andy Anderson of Osawatomie, who came to race in the B class competition.

For McPherson resident Darci Walker, who also owns a house at Marion County Lake, the race was an opportunity for a family get-together. She brought her grandson, Caysen Huber, 10, who also lives in McPherson. Her son, Austin Huber, lives in Florence.

A racer went down on Main St., combat-crawled toward his motorcycle until he stood up, and limped the rest of the way over, picked up the cycle, got back aboard, and rode off to finish the race.

Another racer, said to have competed in earlier Florence Grand Prix races, went down on a brick street as the course turned toward an entry to the dike area.

Paramedics arrived quickly to assist him, but after they treated his injured ribs, he got back on his motorcycle to ride the rest of the race.

Two others at Florence needed assistance from Emergency Medical Service during the day.

A patient was taken from Florence Public Library to St. Luke Hospital in Marion by Peabody ambulance at 11:16 a.m., and medics administered CPR to a patient who had a seizure in front of Fuzzy’s Place before the patient was taken to St. Luke Hospital.

Last modified June 2, 2022

 

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