By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
---- — Fans from across Indiana and the nation are flocking to Kokomo Speedway this weekend for three nights of sprint car racing. The influx of bodies could mean increased activity at local businesses and area attractions.
Two women, one from Iowa and the other Kansas, said they are in Kokomo for their second Kokomo Smackdown. This time they are planning to visit some of the things that make Kokomo special.
“We want to get out and see the town and meet the people,” said Julie Ripperger, Kansas City. “[We want to] see what the shops have to offer and hit the local restaurants. We don’t like the franchise stuff.”
Greater Kokomo Convention and Visitors Bureau distributed 400 visitor guides at the Speedway’s gift shop and ticket windows to entice out-of-town visitors to see more of the community.
Ripperger said people were jealous when they learned she and traveling companion Laura Archer had been to the Smackdown.
“The town is cool and the people are very welcoming,” she said. “We’ll keep coming back for years to come.”
Archer, Knoxville, Iowa, said as they were driving to Kokomo they talked about visiting some of the local attractions.
“Since I was driving, I saw a lot of things I hadn’t seen before,” she said. “We’re going to do some lunch and check out the stores.”
Many at the Speedway grounds indicated they weren’t planning to visit local museums or other attractions, but all intended to patronize local businesses and restaurants while in Kokomo.
Plainfield resident Ashley Dillon was at Kokomo Speedway for the first time, but she said she has driven through the community in the past.
Dillon was not aware of the local attractions.
“It would depend on the type of museum,” she said of a possible future visit. “Maybe [I’ll] go next year.”
Ralph Sturgeon said he would be interested in visiting the Automotive Heritage Museum while in Kokomo for the racing.
Wisconsin resident Tim Watson said he travels to Kokomo Speedway several times a year.
“I kind of keep up online on what attractions are in Kokomo,” he said. “We usually don’t leave the track very much, but I’m aware of them.”
John Bridgewater, Salem, comes to Kokomo several times each year. “I’m aware of the museums, but haven’t been in them,” he said. “We’ll probably hang out at the track and eat out while in town.”
Bridgewater said they will patronize the local businesses to buy needed supplies including ice, fuel, meats and beer.
Tammy Spindler, Fort Branch, said she wasn’t interested in leaving the action.
“We’re just race fans,” she said.
Spindler said they will make purchases at local stores during the weekend. “We used to live in Peru when my husband was in the Air Force,” she said. “We came to Kokomo to shop every week.”
Roger Claridge, Newburgh, said though he was aware of some of the other offerings in Kokomo, he hadn’t seen much of the city. That also didn’t matter much.
“I love the racing in Kokomo,” he said.