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Slingshots swoop into Sundre for inaugural rally

Local and visiting slingshot enthusiasts recently had a unique opportunity to go more than double the speed limit on a Sundre street without having to worry about being pulled over by the police.
A variety of slingshots were lined up on display when riders weren’t preoccupied having fun running time trials.
A variety of slingshots were lined up on display when riders weren’t preoccupied having fun running time trials.

Local and visiting slingshot enthusiasts recently had a unique opportunity to go more than double the speed limit on a Sundre street without having to worry about being pulled over by the police.

In fact, the local RCMP detachment even made available one of its radar guns for the inaugural event that welcomed about 20 riders of the relatively new motorized vehicles, which were rolled off of the production lines by a company called Polaris Industries late in 2014 and are technically classified as motorcycles.

While the first Sundre Sling Fest lasted from Friday, July 28 to Sunday, July 30, individual time trial races were held on Fifth Avenue Southwest immediately behind the local Co-op Cardlock on the afternoon of Saturday, July 29.

"The riders were really excited to be able to have a safe place to try their machines out," said Shawna Brackley, an organizer.

Some of them had never before had the chance to tap into their vehicle's potential, she said.

"When do you get that opportunity? You can't just do it on any street, so to have a safe environment was great."

Plus, local people who had never seen the slingshots in action also had fun getting to watch them race along the road, she said.

Speeds over the one eight-mile stretch of temporarily barricaded street, or a little more than 200 metres, reached an average of about 115 kilometres per hour in what would usually be a 50 kilometre per hour zone. Each time trial was over in about 10 seconds, said Shawna, who with her husband Mark put on the event that was unprecedented not only for Sundre, but for the western provinces as well.

"We're the first in Western Canada," she told the Round Up last week, adding their research through contacting slingshot dealerships indicated there was a modest gathering in Montreal last year.

"They're not very well known," she said about the slingshots, which were in large part designed to cater to motorcycle enthusiasts such as her husband, who due to mobility or balance issues are no longer able to ride.

"He was one of the first owners of a slingshot when they first came out."

Although Shawna played a big organizational role, she said the event has for the past few years been a dream of Mark's, who through his Sundre business The Slingshot Garage based at Wagons West, also custom-makes parts for the unique machines, which are generally in the $20,000-plus price range.

Through a close-knit online community of other avid slingshot aficionados, he told the Round Up last week that he became aware of rallies held throughout the U.S., where upwards of hundreds of people have been known to get together to showcase as well as race their sleek, three-wheeled motorcycles in a friendly testosterone-free zone of like-minded individuals.

"I thought, 'How much fun would that be?'"

So for the past several months, he and Shawna began branching out in search of backing from sponsors.

"We received a tremendous amount of support from the Town of Sundre, which was excited about getting behind it," said Shawna, adding they were also able to receive sponsorships from suppliers in the U.S. as well as the local Fountain Tire and Original T's Family Restaurant, all of whom "were instrumental in putting this together."

"People were floored by the amount of prizes we had to give away."

Participants came from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"All of those riders really boosted business in town," she said, adding they patronized local carwashes, retail shops and eateries throughout the weekend.

"People who were here so enjoyed the Town of Sundre, the community, the scenery and the restaurants," she said.

"They felt it was a welcoming community and one they can't wait to return to."

Above and beyond a commitment to come back next year from the riders who participated, Shawna said interest has also already been expressed by numerous Americans from states such as Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida, who would otherwise never have known about Sundre.

"They wanted to see us have a successful event first."

Overall, the amount of positive feedback and reactions following the event far exceeded and overwhelmed the organizers' expectations, she said.

"Our email and Facebook was blowing up with people wanting to join next year. Seeing people get so excited so quickly was beyond what we expected."

And generating more interest in Sundre during a prolonged economically challenging period benefits the whole community, she said.

"Any additional events to bring more people here is an exciting thing."

Already planning out potential ideas to build upon and improve next year's event, which the organizers want to make annual, she said they hope to be able to if possible introduce a sort of slalom-type pylon course. Follow The Slingshot Garage on social media for updates.

"Next year will be a lot bigger."

Pullquote

"The riders were really excited to be able to have a safe place to try their machines out. When do you get that opportunity? You can't just do it on any street, so to have a safe environment was great."ó Shawna Brackley, Sundre Sling Fest organizer



Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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