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Turtles races in Perham June through August

Turtle Races are a staple of summertime in Perham.

In the summer, Wednesdays in Perham mean one thing: turtle races.

It's on those days when locals, tourists and visitors from throughout the region converge in the city's downtown park to see what turtle - and racing companion - will be crowned the ultimate champion.

But it's not all about the competition of the races. In fact, Perham Chamber of Commerce Director Dan Schroeder said it's really about having fun and enjoying the natural resources this area has to offer.

The tradition dates back to the summer of 1978, when two local policemen hosted a turtle race to give kids something to do.

Since then, the event has steadily grown, with a spike in popularity within the last few years.

On any given Wednesday, hundreds of people flock to the downtown Perham area. One race in June of 2010 marked 516 racers. In 2009, 4,200 racers took part throughout the summer.

Basically, it's a pretty big event.

But none of it could happen without the dedication of its volunteers.

Sherry Bormann, assistant Chamber of Commerce director, said 30 people regularly volunteer to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers are responsible for registration, track maintenance, sponsorships and making sure T-shirts and snacks are ready for the weekly events. They also meet with the FFA organization, which takes care of the turtles, to coordinate turtle transportation and take on announcing and race official duties.

Chamber businesses also play a role in making it a successful party. Kenny's Candy and Barrel O' Fun provide the snacks, while Gene's Sportshop donates the minnows. All Creatures donates the turtle food and the Perham Lions Club man the donut wagon, a main attraction.

And then there are those who make it extra special. Lynn Henderson is simply known as the "turtle lady" - and there's a reason for that. Henderson makes stuffed turtle animals, which include a special Perham Turtle Races logo.

And then of course there's the main animal attraction. Area turtles are raised and cared for by the FFA. Each week racers are paired with their turtles and line them up for the big race. Prizes include turtle T-shirts, turtle dog tags (turtle tags) and train passes for the Perham Express, which transports visitors through the downtown area in the summer.

Local personalities announce the race over the loudspeaker, giving it a real race track feel.

Races are held at 10 a.m. in the downtown city park every Wednesday in June through August.