Turtle derby goes on despite low turnout

May 20, 2018

When the checkered flag was waved, five-year-old Franky Delgado III and eight-year-old Skye Downing let their turtles loose, cheering and yelling as they made their way up a brightly colored race course towards the finish line.

They were not real turtles, but rather robotic models of the slow-moving reptiles which mimicked their characteristic hopping. It was all for the Lions Club's first annual turtle derby on May 20.

About a half dozen people attended the derby, far less than the turnout anticipated by Wayne Vandal, the organization's president. Vandal borrowed the idea from another Lions Club in Tennessee, which has held the races for the past 60 years.

While Vandal knew the first ever event of its kind would likely not attract a major following, he had hoped to see more Dartmouth youth attend.

“I wanted to do something different for the kids,” Vandal said. “I’m disappointed, but I kind of knew it was not going to be overwhelming to begin with.”

Those that did attend, however, did have plenty of fun.

Delgado and Downing faced a challenge in that the turtles appeared to adopt a mind of their own, racing faster, slower, and veering off course several times.

Vandal is already preparing for next year, he said. He hopes to time the event to correspond with the Kentucky Derby, and envisions it becoming a new Dartmouth family tradition.

“We are going to be back again next year,” Vandal said. “Can you imagine what this place would be like if we had 100-200 kids in this gym?”