Sunday, May 6, 2012

Waxahachie Mini-Gran Prix

It was a bright and warm Texas weekend when Dianna and I decided to check up on one of our favorite breakfast restaurants (and prior blog) the 1879 Chisholm Grill in the Courthouse square of Waxahachie, Texas.

As you may recall, Waxahachie (Native American term for cow or buffalo creek) was founded in 1847 by Emory and Nancy Rogers. Formally of Tuscalusa, Alabama, Emory got a land grant and moved his family to a spot where they built a log cabin right around the intersection of Main St. and College Street. In 1849, settlers needed and got 100 signatures to create Ellis County from existing Navarro County. Waxahachie was growing around the Roger's home so folks voted to make it the County Seat in 1850. The Roger's then deeded the land to the city establishing the new town site. 

The old restaurant had been the victim of fire in January of 2011 and we were hoping for a quick rebuild to its past glory. But, alas, they did not rebuild in the old footprint on the east side of the square but at a whole new place adjacent to the I-35E. What we found in its place were the remnants of an old tile floor being warmed by the morning sun.

But disappointment was only temporary. We found the Courthouse square alive with the sounds of coughing engines and squealing tires as powered go-carts came whizzing counter-clockwise around the beautiful Romanesque Revival style Courthouse built in 1897. This was the 10th year the Waxahachie Lion’s Club put on their Mini Grand Prix. The Lion’s Club has no problem organizing all the businesses in town to participate and sponsor a car in one of three classifications. It was a huge field of brightly colored fiberglass blurring by.

I figured this was just a little small town entertainment for a few kids and their parents. I was wrong. As we walked around, I could see some serious team compounds along the racecourse with everybody wearing their team uniforms and tinkering with their cars like it was NASCAR. The track was well appointed with rows of stacked tires encompassing the inner Courthouse perimeter and the outer wall holding back the participants from ending up inside one of the storefronts. There were teams from local radio stations, bail bond agencies; a couple of local banks, real estate offices, a smattering of mom and pops, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department and the Waxahachie Police Department were all represented.

Pit Stop Row

As we watched, Dianna struck up a conversation with a woman in her beach chair seated by the track. She turned out to be the wife of an Ellis County Deputy Sheriff on the race team. She told us the race was a big deal in Waxahachie and the townsfolk looked forward to the event every year. There was serious competition among the various businesses to own a car and qualify for the event. Tensions abounded over who would take the trophies. It was all good-natured fun with all the proceeds going to Lion’s Club Charities but there was a dark side, which held every body’s attention.

Where we were standing was a crowded corner, a cul-de-sac of sorts, at the corner of East Franklin and North College Streets. I asked why everybody seemed to be milling around this particular corner. She confided in us that this was one of two “spin out corners” where most of the crashes and rollovers occurred. She said, like train wrecks and car accidents, it was the blood lust of racing to be in a position to see the collisions and see the injuries. Folks, this was serious racing at its finest, reminded me of how some of our elders probably got started in transporting moonshine. It made me look around for the ESPN cameras, Dale Earnhardt would’ve been proud.

As I watched from the protection of the rubber tires, I saw some pretty fancy driving, sometimes on two wheels, as these go-carters squealed and drifted around, lap after grueling lap, seeking their prizes. Grueling was right, often, I would watch as car after car came by with increasing amounts of Duct Tape applied to fenders and accessories. Each time a competitor careened into a wall in the turns or traded paint in the straight-aways, caution flags would fly from the hands of the Police Explorers manning the perimeters.

Each gladiator would then coast into the Pits where the crew would assault the car. An ever-increasing bulge of Duct Tape would be added to keep the cars from falling apart. The car with the most Duct Tape was an entry by the local radio station KBEC a Country Music station at 1390 on the AM dial (yes they still listen to AM here). Almost the entire rear half of the car was engulfed in tape. Still the right rear quarter refused to stay together, dangled, and scraped its way around the course. It was hard but we had to pry our eyes away from the racing and do what we came to do. Eat.

Note the Duct Tape

Well….shop and eat. Dianna found a sign above “spin out corner” advertising a restaurant and antique shop. The Dove’s Nest is a family owned business started by Cindy and Andrew Burch. Cindy’s mom had an antique store and Cindy and Andrew decided to open a little lunch counter in the back. As word got out about their food and baked goods, they had to expand and were fortunate enough to be able to move into the old Moore Hardware store next to the antique shop. The restaurant now occupies, originally built in 1913, what was the saddle and tack room in the 12,000 square foot building. The restaurant is very cozy and only seats about 30 people but those lucky people get to sample Cindy and Andrews’s very sophisticated menu produced by Executive Chef Aaron Neal.

I had the Portobello sandwich and Dianna had the spinach and ham quiche. Dianna ordered the Field Greens salad. I got the Texas Caesar. The sandwich was awesome with perfectly grilled Portobello mushrooms on spinach bread coated with a horseradish aioli sauce. Dianna’s was a flaky crust triangle of quiche baked to perfection. The salads came with an ample amount of fruit, nuts and melon in a citrus vinaigrette. Very refreshing.

After stuffing ourselves, we had to wander back through the antique shop and then around the west side of the Courthouse Square so Dianna could check out the shops and I to watch the race as it was winding down. Here are some other photos of the race.

Cute chick stuff
More cute chick Stuff

By now, most of the contestants had been eliminated due to breakdowns or had just run out of Duct Tape. The winners in each category came away with a trophy and some hometown pride in their efforts but were already strategizing and looking forward to next year’s race. First place in the Ladies Division was Carlisle Chevrolet. Men’s Lightweight (young men’s) Division went to Citizen’s National Bank and Men’s Heavyweight (Big Boy) Division went to AAA Bail Bonds. Congratulations to the winners and all who participated.

1 comment:

  1. I thought everything was big in Texas. What are they doing driving around in those European sized cars?