Fun Times Roll In Wheelchair Race

Deanna Halko (sitting in wheelchair) throws her hands in the air after knocking down all five bowling pins to knock down Team Wheelin’ Dealin’s time as teammate Skylar Liming drives Halko to the finish line. The inaugural wheelchair races took place Sunday afternoon on South Street as one of the new activities at this year’s St. Marys SummerFest. Team Wheelin’ Dealin’ won the race with a time of 1:08.
Managing Editor

Absent any kind of SummerFest race the last few years, committee members introduced a new event this year with the wheelchair races on Sunday and the event drew tons of fun.

“It just came to my mind,” SummerFest Committee member Fred Hullinger said. “We were talking about wheelchairs and he [Kim Wale] works out at the Grande Lake Center so we just decided to try that.”

The wheelchair races had eight teams participate on Sunday. Each team consisted of two people — one passenger and one driver. 

The race begins by the driver steering the wheelchair heading westbound on South Street before parking it between two cones to begin the first task. The first task requires the driver to grab a metal baseball bat and spin around with the handle on their forehead for 10 seconds. 

After that task, the driver will steer the wheelchair to a person who will hand them three rings. If any of the rings wrap around a stake in the middle of the course, one second per ring is taken off the team’s final time. 

The driver will then steer the wheelchair to its final task where the passenger will roll a bowling ball to the side of the street where there are five bowling pins. If the passenger knocks down any of those pins, one second per pin will be taken off the final time. 

Once the driver steers the wheelchair to the other side of the course, both the driver and passenger will switch positions and will have to work through the course again — this time going eastbound — doing the same tasks until they cross the finish line on the other side of the course.

“We went over a lot of different ideas,” Hullinger said. “Some of them were using water balloons, but we wanted to keep it simple for people and it would keep the cost down for us.”

Hullinger said SummerFest used to have a backseat driver race — where the driver is blindfolded and receives instructions from the passenger in the backseat — but the committee has not had that event in a few years.

“And this idea of the wheelchair race came off of the backseat driver race,” Hullinger added. 

Before the backseat driver race, Hullinger and Wale both said that SummerFest used to have the bed races. The wheelchairs were provided by Grande Lake Healthcare Center on Indiana Avenue.

The first-place team was Wheelin’ Dealin’ with the team of Deanna Halko and Skylar Liming. Combined, they knocked down nine pins, thus having nine seconds removed from their finishing time, which was 1:08. 

Second place was the team Spiderets, Alli McDermitt and Brynn Knapke with a time of 1:26 and third place was Justin Spray and Dustin Kill for the team Galloping Goats with a time of 1:28.