Prairie Dirt Classic weekend in Fairbury is far more than just racing.
Festivities for the annual event started Thursday morning at the Indian Creek Golf and Country Club during the ninth annual PDC golf outing benefitting Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. What originally started as a small nine-hole event on a Saturday morning has really grown in recent years.
“Dan Kukuck, Matt Curl and Charlie Hoselton just keep plugging away at this event,” explained Eric Tjarks, secretary of the Board of Governors at the Shriner's Children Chicago Hospital.
Golfers had a full day to join in the fun as this was a way for fans to enjoy time with drivers but also a way for the Shriners to spread awareness about what they do at 22 hospitals.
The Shriners are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization’s hospitals for children.
“We have a hospital in Chicago, St. Louis and Dayton and we treat children regardless of the family’s ability to pay for orthopedic conditions, cleft lip and palate, spinal cord and burns,” noted Tjarks, who is a past president of the Corn Belt Shrine Club in Gibson City.
Owen Mahan, who just turned 15, has been helped by Shriner’s Hospital as he suffered burns across 98 percent of his body when he was just 2. He later had both legs amputated. Mahan is an inspiration to many and admits he has a fun time while visiting Fairbury.
“It’s the best,” he said, referring to the golf outing. “We have a fun time.”
Everyone always looks forward to seeing Owen.
“He’s just kind of been the superhero of this event,” explained Tjarks. “It’s been a few years since he has been here and I know everybody is just looking forward to seeing Owen.”
The organization holds a special place in racer Chris Ferguson’s heart as his grandfather, who passed away in 2008, was a Shriner.
“From that year on, my local racetrack did a helmet giveaway for 10 years and then from 2018 on, a bunch of Carolina racecar drivers came together and we have a shirt called the Carolina Badboys.”
Ferguson’s group decided to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospital and they are raising more each year.
“We don’t always get along on the racetrack but when it comes to helping the less fortunate, everybody comes together,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson is looking forward to racing at Fairbury Speedway this weekend as he made the 12-hour drive to get here on Wednesday.
“We came here the first time in 2016 and fell in love with the people, the friendships and the memories.”
Driver Ryan Unzicker was just happy to help out the Shriners during such a successful event.
“I love to play golf but my racing schedule kind of screws that up sometimes during the regular course of the year but it’s a great event and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Unzicker said.
Thursday’s golf outing was sold out and the cost was $100 per person which included golf with a cart, lunch and dinner, a drink voucher plus gift and hole prizes. Any fans were welcome to come out to the course to take a look at the action. Tjarks reports the golf outing and auction were very successful.
Tjarks reminds everyone of the Aug. 21 annual Kids Day in Gibson City from the Shriners where everything is 25 cents. Activities will include go kart rides, hot dogs and a parade.