DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - Darlington race week kicked off in the Pee Dee with just days leading up to the Labor Day Bojangle's Southern 500 race. With help from the 12th annual Darlington Car Hauler Parade and Festival.
It's a welcome evening at the Florence Civic Center grounds for the big rigs to take over and NASCAR fans to welcome racers and the Sprint Cup teams, and their haulers. Fans said it really helps the event to come alive. Milton Brumble, one fan who has loved NASCAR for fifty years, and never missed a hauler parade said, "It just the chance to get up close to the car haulers because you don't get the chance at the track, because once they get in the track you don't see them. So it's a chance to get up close and personal."
The welcome festival is a family event for kids too to get signatures with racers, plenty of inflatable rides and games, food vendors and live music. Fans agreed on one thing, the return of Labor Day weekend. Milton said, "Really the race being on labor day weekend its history, so why take away to begin with, I'm glad it's back."
Once the festival wraps up the haulers hit the road for the twelve mile ride into Darlington Main Square for race fest. People lined the closed down streets downtown to wait for the arrival of the haulers passing through on their way to the "Track Too Tough to Tame."
Joey James, a Darlington born and bred who said NASCAR is in his blood, said, "It's kind of crazy wild. It's hard to believe so many people really would spend their hard earned money to come to a little town like this."
A little town, lit up for a special night with every generation there. For James, his devotion to race week has spanned his whole life for more than fifty years as well. He said, "The first time I went out to the track I was probably about ten eleven years old, I used to work the parking and work all day and all night."
James explained that to him and many others, Darlington Raceway is a landmark in the Pee Dee and all over. "Oh yeah, and in NASCAR racing too as far as that goes, I mean its one of the oldest tracks we got left going. It is an exciting track to watch," said James.
Many other NASCAR fans agree, like Peggy Beavers who goes to the car hauler parade every year with her three children. She said, "You know not a lot of towns have this, so we get this and we love seeing people come from out of town and joining us and joining us and having all of our community together."
Fans said it's the events leading up to the Southern 500 race that help everyone look forward to the biggest event of the year for Darlington and the Raceway, and for all the people that believe so much in living its history.