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Drag racing to return to Orange airport?

ORANGE — Drag racing fans may once again flood into town if airport officials decide to allow organizers to reestablish racing at the airport.

Drag Reunion organizer John Durfee asked selectmen last month for a support letter for the Drag Strip Reunion.

Durfee said the event originated in Orange but moved several years ago to the Fitchburg airport. Durfee said he hoped to bring it back to Orange “where it belongs.”

According to Town Administrator Diana Schindler, airport commissioners expressed reservations over the past year about the event’s impact on aging airport roadways. They also had issues about motorist access to the airport during crowded race days.

Durfee said that he is not interested in organizing the event again in Fitchburg and will seek other sites if the Orange airport does not pan out. He said airport managers in Fitchburg asked him to revise race conditions in ways that were not optimum for the coordination of the event.

North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce Member Services Coordinator Maria Bull supported the return of drag racing in Orange as it draws thousands of visitors into the area, increasing foot traffic and business in downtown shops and restaurants.

Selectmen agreed that if the airport commissioners could support the event, it would be beneficial as the crowd of participants and onlookers would be a good economic driver for the town.

Selectmen voted to request Airport Commissioners seriously consider the event because of the potential benefit to town businesses.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Reinig said the vote “speaks only to the town’s economic needs. These big events bring a lot of people into town and that’s very good for (economic development)…therefore we voted for the Airport Commissioners to take a good look at this.”

Reinig said that she expects the airport commissioners will make a decision that weighs both the potential benefits to the town as well as the impact on the airport. She said she hopes the commissioners will also research why the event did not work out in Fitchburg.

The Airport Commissioners will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Orange airport to discuss the issue in addition to other agenda items.

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