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Luskville Dragway celebrating 50 years

Chris Lowrey
LUSKVILLE Aug. 17, 2019
In late August of 1969, the Summer of Love was in full swing as Woodstock became a cultural phenomenon, Neil Armstrong had recently set foot on the moon, and the sound of revving engines pierced the air at the Luskville Dragway for the first time.
On Saturday, several original racers from that August day were in attendance to see the horsepower on display as racers laid down some rubber and tore down the track.
Ed Decooman was joined trackside by several originals including Rolly Doucette, Denis Gagnon, Janneot Tessier, George Petric and Roger Laroche – the track’s original manager.
The current arrangement of the dragway – with the announcer’s tower, light signal system and bleachers – is a far cry from what the track looked like back in 1969.
“There was nothing here, just a tree,” Decooman laughed. “We had to be careful of scaring the horses.”
Each of the original drivers agreed that the dragway had a humble beginning.
“Two strips, just pavement and a flag man,” Petric said of the signal system in the early days.
The track was originally built by George Parent.
Parent’s family owned the land where the track now sits. His mother’s vegetable stand wasn’t generating much in the way of sales and she decided the area needed more traffic.
Parent had the idea of opening a race track and knew there would be a demand for it in the region.
“I think the region needed a dragway,” Laroche agreed.
Several of the other original drivers said the track was a great alternative to the local road network.
As the original racers waited for the events to get under way as the track was being dried, they laughed at the difference in methods over the years.
Old tires would be dragged behind cars in order to create friction and dry the track more quickly. Behind them on the track, a golf cart pulled a high-powered fan that did the job.
On opening day in 1969, Doucette was behind the wheel of a 1969 Camaro, Petric had a 1968 Barracuda, Gagnon drove a 1956 Chevy and Tessier piloted a 1968 Mustang GT 390. While some like Decooman still regularly come to the dragway, others aren’t able to get out as often as they used to.
“It’s kind of neat coming back all these years later,” Gagnon said.
Nowadays, the voice booming over the loudspeaker belongs to Track Manager Arnie Malcolm, who’s been running the show at the dragway since 1980.
Malcolm’s passion for racing is evident as he traces back his earliest memories of the sport.
Originally from Denbigh, Ont., Malcolm was mystified by the announcer’s voice that he’d hear during advertisements for a racetrack in New Jersey on radio station WABC.
A car guy for as long as he can remember, Malcolm got his very first car at the age of 14 – a 1959 Pontiac that he immediately painted black with a yellow hood.
“Ask anyone around here and they’ll tell you my favourite colour is still yellow,” he said.
Malcolm was calm and cool despite the fact that he was going to be participating in a Canadian first later that night.
Three generations – Malcolm, his son Derek and his grandson Cole Malcolm-Krotter – were going to be making a pass over the course of the night.
“It’s Canadian dragracing history,” Malcolm said.
It was the first time Malcolm had taken to the track in three years.
More than 250 cars were on hand to celebrate the track’s milestone. Although the soggy weather delayed some races, Malcolm was confident racers would get their chance.
Despite the rainy weather, it was clear there was nowhere else the racers would be – whether it was the first or fiftieth anniversary of the track.
“I could have been at Woodstock but I came here,” Gagnon laughed.

Saturday's 50th anniversary events featured six original racers from opening day. From left: Denis Gagnon, Rolly Doucette, Ed Decooman, George Petric, Janneot Tessier and Roger Laroche pose trackside.
One of the vehicles that attracted the most attention off the line was the road-ready snowmobile that made an appearance during the 50th anniversary celebrations at the Luskville Dragway on Saturday.
The horsepower was on full display on Saturday at the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Luskville Dragway. Although rain caused a delay to the racing, the drivers still filled their need for speed.

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