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Racing Hall of Fame 10 years old

POSTED: May 30, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News/

Buford resident Warren Johnson, left, received his nomination as a class of 2012 inductee to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame from board member Brandon Reed on Saturday.

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The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame reached a milestone this past week as it celebrated its 10th year.

Opening in 2002, the museum, originally a tourist attraction called "Thunder Road," has overcome numerous obstacles along the way.

Following some hardship, the city of Dawsonville offered financial stability to the museum in 2007.

One of the big steps for the museum came last year when it was renamed a 501(c)3 organization, operating under the volunteer-run Dawsonville History Museum Inc.

In recent months, since beginning to charge admission, there has been an increase in visitors, according to Gordon Pirkle, board member and local racing historian.

Pirkle said the 10th anniversary of the museum represents a "landmark for the organization."

"In a bad economy it was hard opening, but now we are getting lots of visitors and are basically self-sufficient," he said. "We are running over where we were at this time last year."

On Saturday, the museum celebrated its success with numerous car-focused festivities, including a car show, swap meet, arts and crafts and a driver autograph session.

Pirkle said he was "real proud of the turnout."

"I [saw] lots of new faces. I was surprised at that," he said. "I see the same people a lot, but [Saturday] there were lots of people I didn't know."

The enthusiasm of racing fans and attendees was perhaps most apparent when the five new hall of fame inductees were announced at 11 a.m. A list of 15 semifinalists had previously been released.

The five finalists included: Pete Hamilton, Bill Ingram, Warren Johnson, Doug Kenimer and Herman Wise. Johnson and Kenimer were present to accept their designation.

Another special event honored legendary race car driver Raymond Parks. Local Cody Dinsmore, 15, unveiled a new display he designed dedicated to the late driver.

"Parks is one of the most influential guys in Georgia racing history," Dinsmore said. "He has done so much not only for NASCAR and racing in Georgia, but for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. I just thought he should be remembered even more than he already is."

The display included pictures, programs and newspaper articles donated by Parks' widow, Violet.

"Parks, although I didn't really know him that well, he has been a hero of mine," Dinsmore said. "Everything he ever done is how I would like to live my life."

After the inductees were announced and the display unveiled visitors mingled throughout the museum and strolled along the outdoor car show.

Lula resident Paul Lamonica was showing his 1966 Shelby Cobra and participating in the swap meet. He noted the museum was teeming with visitors.

"We actually have several swap meets here and my wife and I come to every one of them," he said. "We try not to miss a single Dawsonville show because we like it here."

Lamonica said he believes the museum is an asset to Dawsonville and knows from personal experience how it draws people to the area.

"When we have a large meet here it brings people from all over, I mean several states away," he said. "Plus, 99 out of 100 people leave here happy. In my opinion, that is good for Dawson County."

A retired commercial pilot, Lamonica said he has "traveled around" and few museums compare to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

"Other than the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, [N.C.], there is no question about it, the museum offers the most comprehensive collection of racing memorabilia and cars," he said.

 

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