Thanksgiving is upon us once again, bringing the promise of a lavish, savory meal and good times with friends and family. The house is tidied up top to bottom in anticipation of guests, grocery carts are filled a few times over and the sweet fragrance of a roasting turkey tickles the nostrils.
Well, that’s what many of us experience, anyway. For the thousands of motocross families throughout the country, that delightful aroma battles with the smell of fresh leathers, oil and minibike exhaust, because for them, Turkey Day and a full schedule of motos go hand-in-hand.
For the last 39 years, the Winter National Olympics – or Mini Os as they’re commonly known – has served as one of the premier amateur motocross events in the country, and it takes place during Thanksgiving week in Florida.
While many may scoff at the idea of spending Thanksgiving huddled in an open field while dirt bikes whizz by, the phrase “don’t knock it till you try it” is certainly appropriate here. The moto world is tight-knit and family-oriented, and every effort is made to bring the down-home traditions of the holiday to the Mini Os. In fact, feasting here is not unlike your typical home-based celebration – if you happen to have a couple thousand brothers and sisters.
To get a little more insight into this unique experience, we checked in with Wes Williams, Film Director at Vurb Moto, who is happily spending his ninth consecutive Thanksgiving near Gainesville at the Mini Os. Here’s what he had to say about it…
How important are the Mini Os?
There are six really big amateur races throughout the year, and even though it’s at the end of the year, people consider Mini Os to be the first one of the season because new contracts have been signed and kids are on new bikes and in new gear. This race is really unique, compared to all the others. The racing format’s different – it has a supercross portion and a motocross portion. I don’t know how they do it, but they cram twice as much racing into the week as a normal event. A ton of people come from all over the country, and that makes it one of the biggest and best races of the year.
Is Mini Os the place to see the “next big thing” in racing?
This is definitely one of those places. Like I said before, there are six major amateur nationals throughout the year. Loretta’s is certainly the biggest, and that goes down in August, so there’s been about a three-month break where nobody’s seen the other guys ride. With the new equipment, new bikes and whatever else, Mini Os is kind of like a new beginning for everybody. If you had a bad 2010 season, this is where you come to try to jumpstart things again. A lot of people are here from the industry with big eyes out for kids they want to take into 2011.
Does it have more of a family vibe than other events?
The cool thing about motocross is that it’s probably the biggest family sport there is. Everybody comes together no matter what, and with Thanksgiving, it just makes it even better. Thor has their own Thanksgiving dinner that they serve up, and there might be a couple thousand people eating there, or you go to the Suzuki pits or the Honda pits – all the manufacturers do their own little dinners too for their riders and teams. Everybody comes together and acts as one big family. It gives everybody the opportunity to kind of slow down and not worry about racing so much and have a really good Thanksgiving together. I think all the other events are a little more stressful.
What’s the best part about the Mini Os?
To me, number one would be seeing all the kids on their new bikes and new teams. Like I mentioned before, you haven’t seen them since Loretta’s, so you get to see who’s been doing their homework, and you get to see who’s looking really good on the new bikes. There’s always a lot of hype around kids switching around and getting on new teams, so it’s cool to see that. Then the Thanksgiving Thursday is really cool, because even if everybody’s having a stressful day, they just get into the cool racing going on and they just relax, and it kind of feels like a day off.
So Thanksgiving at the Mini Os has become the new tradition for you and all these moto families?
Absolutely. Like I said, motocross is such a family sport. Once you spend one time down here… You might be a little skeptical about giving up the home-based Thanksgiving the first time, but you come down here and just never miss a beat. It’s truly special; you’re still spending Thanksgiving with people you care about and who care about you. They may not be your immediate family, but they might as well be.