Sebring races have characters at every turn
Damara Hutchins | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Cows, houseboats and a live rooster: these can all be found at the Sebring races. The cows are actually men dressed up in cow costumes, but the rooster is very real and can be seen at Dodge City, Home of the Stumble Inn.
Published: March 18, 2012
Published: March 18, 2012
Dennis Butler, the self-appointed Sheriff of Dodge City, helps his friends set up a western-looking saloon near Turn 9 every year. There is even hay on the ground and custom-made neon signs.
"We hide the rooster in a cardboard box to bring it in," Butler said. "I buy it from the local feed store and pay anywhere from $12 to $17 for it. The most we ever paid was $25."
John McCotter is the mayor of Dodge City and a 31-year veteran of the Sebring races. John and Dennis come for the camaraderie and set up the elaborate camp to see the smiles on people's faces as they walk by. Butler said, "If we didn't do it, people would be calling us wondering what happened."
Further down the track, at Turn 10, there is not only a lot of action with the cars, but also in the camp. Turn 10 has become famous at Sebring as well as internationally. There are people visiting from England, the Netherlands and one woman from New Zealand.
Lee Self from St. Petersburg is the graphics guy. He made the original Turn 10 flag and several shirts, key chains and cup holders. He met his wife, Jerri, at Sebring. They even got engaged at the hairpin turn.
Sandy Laramy was eager to display an incredible device: the gas-powered blender. She made a frozen margarita from the contraption, which was originally a Ryobi 4 stroke weed whacker. "I started out camping in a tent and got tired of not having access to electricity," she said. Problem solved.
On turn 11 is the Sarasota Racing and Drinking Enthusiasts, a drinking team with a racing problem. Jeff Hume is a member who flies down from Honeoye Falls, N.Y., each year to enjoy the races. "My wife came with me once, but only because we went on a cruise after the race," Hume said. He likes Sebring more than the 24 hours of Daytona.
Jack Pollard said McGruff's Bar and Grill exists only in our minds, but the camp is actually an old Army tent set up under a pine tree on Turn 5 with picnic tables and a small bar.
McGruff's was started 47 years ago by twins who like to be called "The Brothers." Their motto is "If you cook it, they will come." Cooking seems to be what they enjoy doing most, serving three meals a day for four days. Friday night's dinner menu included Bill's pulled pork, Plunkett's soup from Hell, Brother's banana pudding, Penny's finger-lickin' good cherry dump cake, and Penny and Darryl's baked beans.
Drinking is another story. McGruff's is known around the track for serving lemon drops, a vodka-based drink, but you had better be ready to show your I.D. Also, if you want a lemon drop, you have to donate some money to help them replenish their supply.
There doesn't seem to be a single camp on the track that is not welcoming. The people who come to Sebring keep coming back because of the atmosphere created by each other. It's like walking into a huge family reunion where everyone wants to feed you and make you feel at home. Whether you come for the cars, the people, the food, or the fun, Sebring has it all.