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And they're off... turtle races are under way

Submitted photo The first turtle races of the summer were held Wednesday, attracting 143 racers from as far away as Pennsyvania, Montana, Nebraska and Germany. The grand champion for this week was Kason O'Brien, of Nortold, Neb., while the runners-up were Ella VonRuden of Perham and Eli Symmonda of Peoria, Ill. They are pictured here with Miss Perham, Paige Meyer.

Lingering in the turtle pits at the Perham Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, 30 turtles awaited the opportunity to race in the year's first weekly races.

Turtle races started this week and will continue every Wednesday throughout the summer in the courtyard of the Perham Chamber building in downtown Perham. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the first turtles race at 10:30 a.m.

Racers are invited to bring their own turtles or borrow one from the turtle pit. Racing is free and snacks are provided.

The winner of each round receives $1 and the opportunity to race in the final heat for the week's championship. The heat winners race with the top three awarded a prize.

Perham International Turtle Races have attracted tourists from far and wide over the years. The current record for the number of racers on a given day was 563. This year, for the third year in a row, Perham Mayor Tim Meehl will shave his head if a new record is reached - this year's goal is 575 races in one day.

If the first day of races is any indication, there's a good chance that goal will be met. Nearly 150 racers participated, including some from as far away as Pennsylvania, Montana, Nebraska and even Germany.

Other race day attractions include the 'turtle lady,' who sells stuffed turtles, an appearance by Miss Perham, and rides on the Perham Express for $2.