At 'This Place in History', we're in Waterford with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.
"We are standing right outside Northeastern Speedway, one of the early tracks here in Vermont. And we're really getting excited for our exhibit here at the Vermont Historical Society, 'Anything for Speed: Auto Racing in Vermont'. And so Paul Bellefeuille, the owner of this track, is meeting us here and I think we're even going to get to drive on the track," explained Perkins.
"[The track] was created in the spring of 1959 by a group of individuals that worked at the Ralston Purina Plant in St. Johnsbury. What individuals wanted was safe place to race. They were racing in fields before that. So they came here, built a safe track and spectators were safe and they had a great time here," said Bellefeuille.
"What type of cars raced here at this track?" asked Perkins.
"Coupes from the '30s with flathead engine V8's and six cylinders. Then in '64, they went to a semi-late model car, full-bodied car like a '55 Chevy or Ford car. So they had two divisions," answered Bellefeuille.
"After this track was built, other tracks were built in Vermont and it took away some of the splendor of this track because the other tracks were a little bigger in size and more payouts. Thunder Road started in 1960, the year after this was built. They raced on Thursday nights and they had larger payouts. So when people wanted to go to Thunder Road, they didn't want to wreck their car here on Saturday night and then not be able to race there on Thursday. The decline here started in probably 1964 and in '66 it closed."
"We had bleachers all along the back of the wall there. And it was a dollar to get in, kids were 25 cents. We had restrooms and concession stands up there and in the pits over here, we had the first aid station and concession stands for the drivers," demonstrated Bellefeuille.
"I bought the property in 2008, not knowing the history of the track at all. People kept coming up to me and saying, 'my father raced there, my uncle raced there, we used to go to the races there all the time'. There was a lot of history. So I said I'm going to see if I can find out more about this. I went to the library and read old Caledonia Records. They had all the articles in there, all the advertisements. I learned so much about it," said Bellefeuille.
"I found out the first race was July 18th, 1959. It's going to be 50 years in 2009, let's have a celebration reunion. So I worked every day off I had. came here with some help and we cleared all the trees, all the brush and cleaned it all up. And on July 18th, 2009, to the day, we had a reunion here and people came."
"Since then, we've had a few reunions here in July, basically right around the date it started and this year we're going to have an event on July 14th. And the old coupes come, people rekindle friendships and it's a great day," concluded Bellefeuille.
Rolling out of turn four, at 'This Place in History'!
For more from our 'This Place in History' series, click here.
To see a map of Vermont's roadside historic markers, click here.
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