The Iowa Standard headed up and over to the Fairmont Raceway on Friday night to see how the fans felt about the national controversy involving track announcer Lon Oelke. By all accounts, Lon has their support, and they have his back.
We talked with a local businessman and racing fan who was stationed near the entrance to the parking lot monitoring who was coming into the premises. He said the entire thing has been “blown out of proportion.”
“What Lon said was true,” he told us. “I don’t think that any of us, many of us, out here disagree with what he had to say. But the fact is the death threats and the things that have happened are unreal. We don’t need that, that’s not what we’re about. Everybody has a right to believe what they want to believe. We believe one way. But to make death threats and to call people racist – I’ve been called racist probably 50 times today because of different things – just saying we need to take care of this and this has to stop.”
The gentleman said America is in a time of change and a time of revival.
“We need to take a stand,” he said. “This is our stand. When tyranny overtakes the government, then it’s time for us to stand up and defend ourselves.”
He told us Lon has been a part of the community “forever.”
“We all know Lon. Lon’s a great guy and they’re going to stand up for him and I think this is probably going to be more about Lon. They’re behind him 100 percent and they’re behind Jon McCorkell (the track promoter).”
Those who frequent Fairmont Raceway are “God-loving people” and “God-loving patriots,” he said.
“We’re doing everything in our power,” he added. “We’re here to protect. We’re not here to get in a fight. We’re not here to do anything, but if something was to go down, we’re well protected and that’s what it’s going to be about is protecting our own and protecting what we have. You aren’t going to go into Walmart and loot Walmart. That ain’t gonna happen. That ain’t gonna happen here.”
We talked with Chris, who attends every week and lives in a nearby town just 10 miles away. He’s been going to the races for 30 years, he said.
“I stand with Lon. I believe that it isn’t racial, the flag is not racial,” he said. “It’s the American flag and we’re all Americans and we need to respect it. We all have family members that fought for this country and need to respect that.”
Chris called it “absurd” to bring politics into the raceway.
“We come here to watch the races and not be political,” he said. “We cheer for our favorite driver and our friends. We’re all family here. Everybody is like a big family.”
Which makes it even more difficult to think about what Lon is enduring.
“I just can’t fathom what he’s going through because I know Lon personally. I’ve heard that he’s gotten death threats and things like that. It’s just sickening that people take it so far for something so stupid.
“I know Long is not a politically correct guy all the time – he’s just a normal guy and sometimes he may say things that don’t come across as correct to everybody, but it’s just what he feels. And I think 90 percent of the people here feel the same way he does.”
Michelle grew up on the border with Iowa. She’s attended the races at Fairmont for years.
“All I saw was what was on Facebook,” she said. “I don’t know the whole situation.”
But she knows Lon is a “good announcer.”
“He’s been here for years,” she said. “I think everybody has their own opinions. I don’t know what was all really said down there because I didn’t catch it all.”
She knows race fans, though.
“We’re patriotic and we’re family,” she said. “I mean, we’re here for everybody. All I know is Lon is really good and he can get a crowd going. He’s a crowd-pleaser.”
Mike and Jamie made the trip from Armstrong, Iowa. They attend the Fairmont Raceway events often. Mike is a veteran who served overseas.
“They can (kneel for the anthem), but as a veteran like myself who has been over and done the fighting for our country, we stand and respect it because that flag blows because we fought for it,” he said. “It came at a cost.”
Jamie said the fans at the raceway are all family.
“We all stand for the same thing,” she said. “City folks don’t get it. That’s the thing. It’s the truth.”
Both are concerned about Critical Race Theory and students being taught to hate America.
“They want to make America a socialist country where people have to depend on the government to provide for them,” Mike said.
It is difficult to imagine kids who are taught to hate the country growing up and co-existing with kids who are raised at the race track, church or small-town USA and love their country.
“It wouldn’t happen,” Jamie said. “They want everybody so dependent on the government. The government is getting what they want.”
The National Anthem is very important to Mike.
“It’s a special kind of people who go over and put their life on the line for the freedoms we want,” he said. “Not everybody qualifies to get in there. But, it’s something to be proud of.”