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Appleton builds its own, faster Supercross track for games

APPLETON -- "What dad doesn't do for the boys. That's what it comes down to,'' said Brad Mitchell, a grin on his face.

That was Mitchell's explanation for why he spent long hours pushing dirt and creating what arguably will be Minnesota's fastest Supercross track when it hosts racers for the "A" Games at Applefest. The racing begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in front of the grandstand on the Swift County Fairgrounds in Appleton.

Mitchell has two sons who will compete among dozens of competitors from a five-state area.

Mitchell and fellow organizer Tim Dittes said they expect to see 30 professional racers at the event. It offers a $3,500 pot with a first-place payout of $1,500.

The pros will be joined by competitors in 19 other classes.

The day's events include Supercross bike racing, quad or four-wheel racing, and utility quads or four-wheel drive machines. The utility quad racing features a $1,000 purse.

While Mitchell professes his involvement is all for his sons, the truth is that both he and Dittes are looking to put Appleton on the map by hosting one of the region's premiere Supercross events.

It all started with a map of their own: They sketched out a track of their dreams and went to work from there.

The result? "It's two gears faster,'' Mitchell said, explaining that the track's larger size means the racers will be shifting up to fourth gear in many instances.

Racers will be flying 95 feet through the air over mounds created with eight-foot diameter culverts. The course also features 24 different jumps.

For those unfamiliar with Supercross, it's all about navigating obstacles and hairpin turns while competing on bikes and four-wheelers. The classes range from bikes and four-wheelers with 50 cubic centimeter engines to 450 cubic centimeter engines.

While the two organizers are confident the event will attract some of the area's best racers, they also emphasized that this is an opportunity for those itching to give Supercross a try. There are powder puff and beginner classes, and a special women's open bike class.

Supercross racing was a part of the Swift County Fair for a couple years before the Appleton Chamber of Commerce made it a part of the city's annual Applefest celebration. The hosts used to hire a firm to put on the event, said Dittes.

This year they decided to do it on their own. Doing so provided the opportunity to create a more challenging track and expand the number of classes, he said.

It also put Dittes on the highway. He distributed thousands of fliers in places ranging from Worthington to St. James to Hutchinson. Others carried the message to points in neighboring states and as far as Indiana.

The response has been more than encouraging. Dittes said he's fielded lots of calls from racers planning to take in the big event.

The $8 admission ticket makes it an affordable venue, he said.

Both Dittes and Mitchell enjoy off-highway vehicle riding and racing, and have introduced their children to the sport. The opening of the off-highway vehicle park just outside of Appleton has helped make the community a destination for many others who enjoy motor sports. Dittes said it's not unusual to see anywhere from 100 to 120 riders in the park over the course of the weekend, some of them coming from as far as the Twin Cities.

Dittes said making Appleton home to a Supercross racing event not only makes sense, but is needed. Otherwise, the closest racing event for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts in the Appleton area is 150 miles away.

On Sept. 20 the opportunity is as close as the grandstand at the Swift County Fairgrounds. There will be concessions and other activities on the fairgrounds as part of the Applefest celebration.

Dittes said the event will also have its own "grand marshal.'' Harrison McGuire, a 10-year-old Ortonville youth who is battling leukemia, was presented a dirt bike by the Minnesota chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and will ride on the track as grand marshal.

For more information, contact Dittes at 320-289-1731 or 320-226-5592.