Friday, December 11, 2009

Speedway In Lights: a Different Look at Bristol Motor Speedway


Many race fans see Bristol Motor Speedway as the site of some of the most exciting races of the NASCAR season, but during the winter, the roar of the engines is replaced by the sound of Christmas music and the illumination of over 1.5 million Christmas lights. Bristol Motor Speedway begins its Speedway In Lights powered by TVA program in November and it runs until January 2nd.

All proceeds from the Speedway In Lights program benefit the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. 2009 marks the 13th year of the Speedway In Lights program, and in those thirteen years, the event has drawn in thousands of visitors and raised more than $4.5 million for the Speedway Children’s Charities. The Speedway In Lights is the biggest fundraiser for the track.

Work begins pretty much as soon as the Sharpie 500 ends in August to start preparing the speedway and the speedway grounds for the event. In September of 2006, I volunteered one day to help out. From 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I was busy checking displays to make sure they worked, sorting bulbs into boxes according to their color, and exchanging old bulbs with new ones in the displays. Despite all that work, it barely made a dent in what needed to get done. With over two hundred displays—some of which are ten feet tall or more—it takes a lot of hard work and dedication for track workers and volunteers to get it all finished before the event begins in November.

On a good night, it takes forty-five minutes from start to finish to drive along the 4.5 mile long route. However, on weekends it can sometimes take forty-five minutes just to get to the ticket booth. The best bet for a shorter waiting time would be to go during the week. Christmas music plays on FM station 100.9 for those who want to listen to the music as they drive along the route.

Visitors take a drive around the track grounds past displays strategically grouped together, such as the Twelve Days of Christmas display that features everything from the partridge in a pear tree to the twelve drummers drumming, and Dinosaur Village is a popular one with the kids that features an erupting volcano and six dinosaur shaped displays. There are even motorsport themed lights. Such as dragsters that race each other and stock cars that race each other. The newest display is the Sea Of Illumination presented by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which actually runs under the grandstands of the track.


The Sea Of Illumination features displays in the forms of sharks, starfish, and other sea life.

The route even allows visitors to drive down the famous Thunder Valley drag strip. The finale of the route leads to the hauler entrance and onto the track, allowing visitors to take a lap around the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. For those in no hurry to leave the track, the infield features the Subway Christmas Village, where the speedway’s media center is turned in the Santa Hut where parents can bring their children to get their pictures taken with Santa. There are vendors on hand selling concessions. There are fire pits for roasting marshmallows, local arts and crafts vendors, a Bristol Motor Speedway souvenir hauler for buying speedway merchandise, and even a few carnival rides for the kids.

Lights strung from the pylon make it look like a giant Christmas tree, and a star is displayed on all four of the giant screens atop the pylon.

For those of you who have visited before, I hope you all enjoyed going as much as I did. For those of you who haven’t visited, I hope you get the chance to go one day. It really is a fun event to go to. I look forward to going every year.

The 2009 Speedway In Lights began on November 13th and will run until January 2nd. The track is opened 6-10 p.m. daily. Tickets for cars are $10 Sunday through Thursday and $12 on Friday and Saturday.

More information can be found at: http://www.speedwayinlights.wordpress.com/

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The photos used in this post were taken by me. However, the first photo is from 2008. I missed getting a picture of that particular display when I went last Sunday. That one is slightly different this year.

2 comments :

I have a lot of favorite Speedway in Lights memories. One year we toured when temps were around 9°. Brrrr! Another year, light snow falling and it was so beautiful! But visitors had trouble leaving the track area since the track was slick; you had to get a running go to get straight up the 33° banking to the exit. But I think my favorite was a couple years ago when we went on the last night of the display in January. It was warm enough to put the top down on our Miata for touring and the end of the evening/event was marked with a fireworks show.

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