Riley County residents on Saturday came out of their shells to watch turtles race to the finish at Leonardville’s annual Hullabaloo event.
Children from around the area brought their water and box turtles to battle it out in different heats to see which could finish the fastest — although fast is a relative term at this event. Leonardville PRIDE volunteers help organize the event, said Jeff Crady, a Leonardville PRIDE volunteer.
The turtles raced in heats of three, four or five. Each turtle had a number written on its shell to designate one was which.
Some of the turtles went surprisingly quickly, passing the circular finish line with speed. Others took their time, munching on grass or turning in circles while crawling their way toward the finish. Some of the reptiles barely moved from their starting positions.
The fastest turtles from each heat moved onto the finals to determine the overall champion.
Blake Wilcoxson’s box turtle reigned supreme while also finishing first out of all the box turtles. Wilcoxson’s box turtle beat the fastest water turtle, owned by Hailey Geisler.
Cord Wurtz’s turtle took home second place in the box turtle category, while Carsten Thomas’ turtle, dubbed No. 9, finished second out of all the water turtles. Thomas had two turtles participate in the races, the other being a three-legged turtle, No. 8 during the race.
“He was crossing the road, and we were gonna save him,” said Martha Hammer, Thomas’ mother. “And then we saw he had three legs. We brought him to the stock tank.”
Hammer said her son, who is 8, loves taking care of his turtles.
“He feeds them every morning. He went out this morning and said that he fed them so they’d win today,” Hammer said.
Following turtle No. 9’s victory, Thomas attempted to congratulate his turtle with a high-five. Every year, Thomas also enters his turtles in the races held in Randolph, where No. 9 won, Hammer said.
“They just live in our stock tank. And then as soon as this one is over, they go back to the creek,” Hammer said.
Danele Wendland’s four sons — Gage, Gracen, Granger and Gains — participate in the turtle races every year as well.
“We start collecting turtles probably at the beginning of the summer, and keep them in pens at our house,” Wendland said. “So they like going out and feeding the water turtles minnows and scraps to the other ones. And they practice racing them, I guess you could say, at home.”
Crady said this is the last turtle race out of all the small towns in the area. He said he enjoys watching the community come together to watch the reptiles race each other.
“It gives them something to cheer for,” he said. “If they do good, they win a trophy. Everybody (competes).”
The owners of the turtles who finished in the top four spots — Wilcoxson, Geisler, Wurtz and Thomas — all took home a trophy.
The race was just one of the good old-fashioned events at the Hullabaloo, which is an annual event in Leonardsville.
The festival also features a parade, vintage car and antique tractor shows, and other kids’ activities such as train rides and tractor pulls over the weekend.
People from around the county flock to the town to experience the various events.