Community celebrates Memorial Day with 40th annual turtle race

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LONE ELM - Some people barbecue or head down to the lake to celebrate Memorial Day, but one community celebrates with turtles.

This year marked the 40th annual Lone Elm Memorial Day Turtle Race. 304 turtles raced to the finish line outside Zion Lutheran School, while onlookers cheered them on, making this their biggest year ever.

Dusty Rhodes helped start the race forty years ago with Art Siedenburg.

"[Siedenburg] owned the Lone Elm store and I worked for him at the time and we decided to have a Memorial Day race and turtles are what we decided on," Rhodes said.

The race started in 1976, with just 39 turtles competing. 

"A lot of these people have children who were little kids when we started the race. Over the years, the little kids are big kids. It's just a community event that has grown and everybody is having fun with now," Rhodes said.

Rhodes said people begin finding turtles about a week before the race takes place.

"People usually find them on the road, in the early morning is when they're off traveling. You don't want to keep them that long, though," Rhodes said.

The turtles race in heats, with about five to ten turtles racing per heat.

Julie Greer of Bunceton helps get the event going every year.

"My sister Janet and I, we register the turtles, and my two other sisters gather the turtles in a circle to get them racing," Greer said.

There are multiple winners for the race. Winners win either a medal or ceramic trophy.

"Everybody comes in a good mood, they are happy to be here and congregate together with their own family. It's just a really fun time for the kids because they really feel like they are doing something even if they don't win," Greer said.

The proceeds from the event go towards building a multi-purpose building soon to constructed at Zion Lutheran School. The building will include a gymnasium and commons area adjacent to the school.