Friday, August 24, 2001

4-wheeling fans fill Cleves

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CLEVES — The competition is important, but they also come for each other's company, driving hundreds of miles, many having arrived last weekend in motor homes and hauling trailers with their four-wheel-drive vehicles.

        “This is our vacation,” said Karen Reinhardt, who arrived Saturday with her husband, Ken, from Gregory, Mich., along with the 1971 Jeep they call Mudd Puppy. “Not many people vacation in a gravel pit. But we do.”

[photo] Toni Bealmear helps her husband, Jim, move their XB Class car onto the scales for the weigh-in at Gravelrama.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Reinhardts were among several hundred people already in town for the 31st annual Gravelrama, a weekend of four-wheel, off-road racing that Cleves Mayor Joe Whitton calls a “cross between a World Series, a stock car race and Woodstock.”

        Bill Weisbrodt, president of IOK Four Wheelers, which owns the property and produces Gravelrama each year, said 400 to 500 campers are on the grounds, and about 400 people will compete in the four days of competition. The events will attract anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 spectators this weekend.

        “They come from all walks of life,” said Mr. Weisbrodt.

        Three generations of one family came in from Michigan. Fred and Nancy Garneau, of Plymouth, Mich., have been coming to Gravelrama since 1983. Both are competitors, but there's more to it than the races.

   • What: Gravelrama
   • When: Gates open at 4 p.m. today. Uphill drags competition at 5 p.m. Saturday, gates open 8 a.m. Flat drags at 10 a.m. Sunday, gates open 8 a.m. Junior racers at 8 a.m., Big Eliminator at noon. Monday, gates open 8 a.m. Obstacle course at 10 a.m.
   • Where: Gravelrama Park, off Junction Road, Whitewater Township.
   • Admission: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, $12 for ages 13 and up. $6 for ages 6-12. Ages 5 and under, free. Monday, admission is free.
        “The camaraderie,” said Ms. Garneau. “There's some we only see at Gravelrama.”

        They brought Munchkin 2 with them, a vehicle difficult to describe, but composed mostly of Jeep parts and equipped with a laptop on board that tells them what the engine is doing.

        Also along are their daughter and son-in-law, Natalie and Mike Henderson, of Oakland Township, Mich., and their granddaughter, Mara Henderson, 12, who has been racing since she was 8.

        “It's fun, it's very competitive, and very exciting,” said Mara. “Except for the bugs.”

        The Garneaus will compete in about 15 four-wheeler races a year, mostly in Ohio and Michigan. But Gravelrama is special.

        “This is the granddaddy of them all,” said Mr. Garneau.

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