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Maritime Motorsport Hall of Fame inducts 10 new members

The Class of 2019 was inducted into the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame on Nov. 16. Recognized for their outstanding achievements in Maritime motorsports as competitors, builders and promotors, the 10 inductees were (left to right): Greg and Claudette Turner (N.B.), Ken Cunning (N.S.), Wendell Taylor (P.E.I.), Bill Sheppard (N.S.), Allan and Roy O'Blenis (O'Blenis Auto Body, N.B.), Paul Chenard (N.B.), Trueman Copp (N.B.), Bill Snowdon (N.B.), and Joe Baker (N.S.). - Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum
The Class of 2019 was inducted into the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame on Nov. 16. Recognized for their outstanding achievements in Maritime motorsports as competitors, builders and promotors, the 10 inductees were (left to right): Greg and Claudette Turner (N.B.), Ken Cunning (N.S.), Wendell Taylor (P.E.I.), Bill Sheppard (N.S.), Allan and Roy O'Blenis (O'Blenis Auto Body, N.B.), Paul Chenard (N.B.), Trueman Copp (N.B.), Bill Snowdon (N.B.), and Joe Baker (N.S.). - Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum - Contributed

The Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum in Petitcodiac was a busy place last weekend. There was a festive feeling in the air on Nov. 15 at the museum’s Open House, the first event of the weekend celebrating the organization’s 10-year anniversary.

Though the organization was founded in 2005, the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum’s 10,000-square-foot complex was built in 2009, spearheaded by Ernie and Winona McLean, builders of River Glade Speedway, with proceeds from government funding, donations and fundraising. 

For the Open House on Friday, the public were welcomed to check out the MMHF Museum, which showcases the heritage of Maritime motorsports and those who have helped build it. It’s jam-packed with race cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, antiques, hot rods and adventure vehicles. 

One of my favourite features is the Wall of Honour which displays motorsports builders, racers, and enthusiasts that, since 2006, have been inducted into the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame. Obviously, I’m a bit biased because my husband, Garry Sowerby, has held a spot on that wall since 2012.

The unassuming building also houses meticulously-maintained archives and a large multi-purpose room used for gatherings such as this one.

Of course, there was birthday cake. 

That evening, at an invitation-only event of local dignitaries, inductee alumni and supporters of the MMHF, the buzz of excitement continued. The guest speaker was, you guessed it, Garry Sowerby, a fitting choice for the 10th anniversary celebration as this year, he celebrates his 40-year anniversary in business in the automotive industry. Garry regaled the crowd with stories of his global motoring adventures.

The food, prepared by volunteers and staff, was delicious, as usual. Led by Master of Ceremonies, Earl Doucette, speakers and well-wishers included Winona McLean, Hon. Ross Wetmore, MLA Gagetown-Petiticodiac, Rob Moore, Conservative MP for Fundy Royal and Petitcodiac Mayor Gerald Gogan.

On Nov. 16, the annual Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held. Out of 38 nominations, 10 new members joined the MMHF list of honourees forming the Class of 2019. Each inductee is being recognized for significant accomplishments and contributions in Maritime motorsports.  

The three Maritime Provinces were well-represented. From New Brunswick, our friend and fantastic award-winning illustrator, artist Paul Chenard, was inducted as well as Trueman Copp, a founding member of the Southeastern New Brunswick Snowmobile Association. 

The family team at O’Blenis Auto Body, dedicated stock car racers and sponsors of other drivers, who helped build Petty Raceway in River Glade, was honoured in the category of Motorsports Builders as was Bill Snowdon, the first Canadian to receive the Red Seal designation in motor mechanics and a passionate life-long teacher of the trade.

Other inductees in the Builder category included Ken Cunning, from Nova Scotia, general manager of Scotia Speedworld and the Maritime Pro Stock Tour, who loves cars, car shows, stock car and drag races and serves as the N.S. vice president of the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame, and Wendall Taylor from Sherwood PEI. Wendall competed for many years on PEI’s dirt tracks, crewed for other drivers then sponsored drivers. He is a member of the PEI Antique Auto Club and is the Inspection Tech for antique cars and trucks.

The 1955 Chevy "Green Growler," belonging to 2019 inductee, the O’Blenis Family, is just one of the many vehicles on display at the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum. - Lisa Calvi
The 1955 Chevy "Green Growler," belonging to 2019 inductee, the O’Blenis Family, is just one of the many vehicles on display at the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum. - Lisa Calvi

Motorsports in the Maritimes would be nowhere without the tireless efforts of the sport’s promoters and the MMHF honoured those as well, like Greg and Claudette Turner who have produced the Speed Sport car show in Moncton for 50 years, a show that has consistently raised the bar of local stock car and drag racing to international levels.

From Westville, N.S., Joe Baker, a long-time competitor in stock car racing joined the Wall of Honour this year. In 1998, he started the Pioneer Coal 250 race at Riverside Speedway outside of Antigonish, kicking off the race and thrilling the crowds in the pace vehicle, his work truck, a Freightliner tri-axle tractor dump truck loaded with 35 tons of coal.

Bill Sheppard, from Halifax, a drag racer with more than 40 years at the wheel, was inducted. Bill is one of very few Maritimers to earn an NHRA National Event Wally, drag racing’s most prestigious trophy.

From Deerfield, N.S., Tom Borcherdt was inducted as a competitor, but one on two wheels. Tom has several records including two world speed records at Bonneville Salt Flats. He has come a long way from when he built his first motorcycle at 14 using a lawnmower engine and a bicycle. 

There is no doubt that a robust car culture exists here in the Maritimes. Kudos to all the enthusiastic members, proud supporters, passionate aficionados and diligent volunteers involved with the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum for promoting that rich heritage and keeping the adoration of the automobile revved up and kicking. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2019 and Happy 10th Birthday to the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum. Here’s to many more decades!

For more information on the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum, or to find out how you can support it, please visit: www.maritimemotorsporthalloffame.com or stop by the museum in Petitcodiac at 5 Hooper Lane.

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