Street-legal drag racing has been a summer tradition in Port Alberni since 2001.
“The smell of burning rubber. The sound of cars flying down the road, fans cheering. It’s just a great family fun weekend,” said Deb Haggerty of the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association.
The races were held at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport until 2015 when an expansion project there forced the event to move into the city on Stamp Avenue for three years.
But when it wanted to move back to the airport last year, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District pulled the plug at the last minute.
It was only recently revealed that the province got involved to say when it granted the airport lands to the Regional District in 1991, it was for the sole purpose of an airport.
So after a year hiatus, the races are back, but on the shorter Stamp Avenue track.
“Being in town only doing an 8th-mile race we don’t have the shutdown area for a quarter-mile so we can’t bring the faster cars that the spectators like to see, the real fast door-slammers because they don’t have the room to shut down,” said Haggerty.
The City of Port Alberni says it supports the unique event and estimates it’s injected around $2 million into the economy over nearly two decades of racing.
“It’s one of those events you really see the entire community come out for which is really exciting and then it’s certainly a driver of tourism in the community so yeah it’s an amazing event for Port Alberni,” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions.
“It’s huge for the economy, the hotels are all full, the restaurants are all full, people are shopping here, they’re buying their gas here,” added Haggerty.
About 140 racers are expected to come from as far as Vancouver for the event and upwards of 5000 fans will line the fenced-off track each day.
Thunder in the Valley is Aug. 7 to 9.