Berks racing fans, drivers keep racing memories alive at Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion

Former Reading Fairgrounds driver Earl Derr from Mertztown shared his racing memories at the Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion and Car Show, held on Feb. 23, 24 and 25 at Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven.
Former Reading Fairgrounds driver Earl Derr from Mertztown shared his racing memories at the Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion and Car Show, held on Feb. 23, 24 and 25 at Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven. Lisa Mitchell — Digital First Media
Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion and Car Show on Feb. 23, 24 and 25, at Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven, included a display of about 75 to 100 cars from past and present.
Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion and Car Show on Feb. 23, 24 and 25, at Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven, included a display of about 75 to 100 cars from past and present. Lisa Mitchell — Digital First Media

Berks County racing fans traveled to Schuylkill Haven for the Reading Fairgrounds Race Reunion and Car Show on Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

Held at Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven, Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society hosted a three-day event to honor and remember the drivers and cars that ran at the Reading Fairgrounds. There was an autograph session with Reading Fairgrounds racers, food, memorabilia vendors, and a display of about 75 to 100 cars from past and present.

“Bob and Diane Greene of Pioneer Pole Buildings, they were gracious enough to give (Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society) the property here (for the Race Reunion) and keep the tradition alive,” said Bradley Reinert, of the Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society. “It’s 33 years that we’re doing this just to remember the fans, the drivers and everything that was the Reading Fairgrounds.”

Reinert, who lived on the Fairgrounds and worked at the track for more than 26 years, explained that up until last year, the Race Reunion was held at the Fairgrounds Mall, the former site of the Fairgrounds.

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Last year, the Historical Society was no longer able to hold the Racing Reunion at the Fairgrounds Mall after a change in ownership. Unable to find a place in the area that could hold 100 plus cars, vendors and thousands of people, the Historical Society feared the Reunion would cease to exist. Bob and Diane Greene offered their business, Pioneer Pole Buildings on Route 183 in Schuylkill Haven, as the location starting with last year’s event.

“I, along with members of the Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society, Rich Tobias (poplar name in racing) and Doug Rose of the famous Championship Energy Action Track USA, based at the Kutztown Fairgrounds, got together and in less than a month pulled off the 32nd annual event (in 2017),” said Reinert. “With 40 cars, a hand full of vendors, and approximately 4,000 spectators over the 2 day event, we pulled it off!”

Reinert, promoter of the Race Reunion, emphasized the importance of keeping the Reading Fairgrounds race memories alive.

“If you look at any of the videos, the grand stands, everything was always packed. You don’t see that anymore,” he said, noting that the races drew people in from across Berks County and beyond as far as New York and even further. “It was much more than our community; it was pretty much East Coast. There’s a lot of memories, a lot of history.”

Reinert said drivers like Earl Derr, Freddy Adam, Craig VonDuran, Craig Whitmoyer, Daryl Dissinger, Kenny Brightbill and the Meitzlers - who are from Kutztown, Hamburg, Oley, Sinking Spring and Shillington - all continue to participate in the Race Reunion to keep the memories alive.

Former Reading Fairgrounds driver Earl Derr from Mertztown talked about his racing days. He drag raced for six years and raced 14 years in stock car, racing at Reading Fairgrounds from 1968 until it closed in 1979. He retired from racing in 1981.

“I had a lot of nice times racing and I met a lot of nice people, had a nice career. Nothing spectacular, but I had a lot of fun,” said Derr.

He enjoys coming out to the Race Reunion.

“I like to see all the old cars and a lot of the people I haven’t seen in years. A lot of old people who used to come to the races and watch me race show up here,” said Derr. “It’s nice talk and have a good time.”

Along with the Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society, Shellhammers Speedway, Linda’s Speedway, Memories and Friends of Dorney Park, Championship Energy Action Track USA, to name a few, were on hand with displays and 2018 schedules.

Doug Rose, co-owner of Action Track USA in Kutztown, attended to promote the track’s upcoming racing season.

“This event has a lot of history. The Reading Fairgrounds was around for many years,” said Rose. “A lot of fans continue to come out to this show... A lot of these fans have become our fans at the Action Track, we’ve become the new Reading Fairgrounds.”

Action Track holds races at the Kutztown Fairgrounds.

“We offer a lot of great entertainment to the fans and we offer a lot of entertainment for families. It’s a very kid-oriented sport, and we try to have the kids involved as well as families. A lot of kids are involved with the race cars themselves, not just in the stands,” said Rose.

For more information about Reading Fairgrounds Historical Society, visit http://www.readingfairgroundsracing.com/ or follow on Facebook at Reading Fairgrounds Racing Historical Society.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.