I love turtles. I love saying (yes, in that voice) “turtle, turtle, turtle” when I see one. With that being said, I have lived in the Lakes area for nearly 15 years and have only ONCE been to see the Turtle Races in Nisswa, which happen every Wednesday at 2:00 from mid-June through mid-August at “Turtle Downs” in downtown Nisswa near the chamber building.
I brought my daughter to the races about 2 years ago and it was crazy fun! Finally, I actually had the pleasure of judging (or referee’ing) the world famous Nisswa Turtle Races on Wednesday, July 17th – and what a blast that was! I didn’t realize just how passionate people are at these races, but I quickly learned! The kids are so cute – even the ones who end up not wanting to touch the turtles and start screaming. The adults are (mostly) smiling and excited for their children to take part in this awesome tradition. The rules are simple (for most), the stakes are high (to get that coveted medal) and a good time is had by all! The races have been up and running for at least 56 years… people who were in attendance this past week remember being there as a kid “back in the day” and were now here with their Grandchildren watching THEM race turtles.
They sold about 400 buttons for $5 and they call kids out in groups of 20. It’s “ready, set, RACE” at which moment, the turtles are placed on “the yellow starting line” and away they go! They need to cross the bullseye-like track and cross the other yellow line in order to win. The “judges” blow a whistle when a turtle crosses the line near them. In additions, you must know that the only way to coax your turtle is to splash water on it from behind. No stepping outside of the starters circle to tap it along… water only. If you step out, your speedy little friend is disqualified. They go on in “heats” until a winner is declared, then a new set of races begins. Those under 5, those who are staying at area resorts, those who are locals, those who are grandparents and finally – the volunteers get to race them! I GOT TO RACE a turtle! It was AWESOME. I even quickly named it Spanky. It was good for a few laughs!
I highly recommend attending the races and if you are so inclined, volunteer like I did to be a judge! It was so much fun! Thank you to the Nisswa Chamber for bestowing on me the great honor of participating in the Nisswa Turtle Races! I’ll be back – but next time, I’ll choose a faster turtle – and name it Danica!