COLUMBUS — Father's Day turned into Family Day during Sunday's main event of the Big Sky Thunder National Hillclimb.
Families like the Waddells of Omaha, Neb., and the Petersons of Yorba Linda, Calif., feature second- and third-generation hillclimbers, with grandchildren using the motorcycle skills passed down from grandpa to dad.
Harold Waddell Sr. has passed his talents along to his son Gary, who in turn did the same with his son Harold, (grandpa and grandson have the same name).
Harold Sr. was a Nebraska state champion in his time, Gary is a two-time national American Motorcyclist Association champion and Harold is this year's Big Sky Thunder National Hillclimb King of the Hill.
"Harold was basically born and raised in the sport of hillclimbing," said Gary Waddell. "He was still in diapers when I put him on his first motorcycle."
Harold says that he "doesn't even remember when he wasn't riding a motorcycle."
In addition to riding talent, Harold said Gary instilled his philosophy of 'If you're going to win, you're going to win fair and square. The more competition there is the more fun it is.' "
Gary is rarely seen in the pits without some tool in his hand and a smile on his face. "Harold is a skilled enough rider to take care of himself and has enough sense to back down if he gets into trouble."
"Companionship is the best gift my father has given me," said Harold. "He's my best friend. He rides with me every weekend it seems and we're a great team."
That team effort helped Harold to win not only the King of the Hill title on Sunday, but also a first-place finish in the Open Exhibition main event and a third place in the 0-700cc main event.
Another family affair on the big hill in Columbus this weekend was the Petersons.
Father Kerry Peterson raced for over 30 years, winning five world championships and the celebrated Great American Hillclimb in Billings four times, and was named the Best Hillclimber of All-Time by Dirt Rider Magazine in 1999. Kerry's sons, Bret, 22, and Robie, 30, know they have a lot to live up to.
"I'm just trying to be what my dad was," explained Bret. "He's taught me everything I know and I've learned everything from him. He's my dad and my hero at the same time."
"As a son I think it is great my dad did so well," added Robie. "I look up to him since he's accomplished so much."
As the team manager and father, Kerry says his biggest job is mentoring. "I want them to realize being a champion is more than just being a good rider. It all has to come together — the bike and the hill."
The Petersons displayed their family talents this weekend, as Robie won the 0-700cc main event and Bret took second place in the Open Exhibition class.
"I got the best Father's Day present I could ever receive. Both of the boys had really good rides and neither of them got injured," said Kerry.
Robie wished his father a happy Father's Day while on the podium for his 0-700cc main event win.
The Big Sky Thunder National Hillclimb challenged riders as the second event in the North American Hillclimbers Association (NAHA) series.
"It was a great weekend and a really great hill," said co-promoter Jason Smith from Utah.
Over 1,000 spectators were in attendance throughout the weekend on the hill five miles north of Columbus, and only two major injuries occurred. The No. 1 rider in NAHA points, Dusty Beer of Columbus, suffered a dislocated shoulder during his second ride in the 0-700cc main event, and Jeff Thomas suffered a leg injury.
The Big Sky Thunder Nationals is the second event in the NAHA series this year. Next is the World Trophy in Decazeville, France, July 1-2. Travis Whitlock, Robie and Bret Peterson, Smith, and Thomas will all be competing in France.
0-700cc Main Event — 1, Robie Peterson, 9.931; 2, Dusty Beer, 9.975; 3, Harold Waddell, 10.325.
Open Exhibition Main Event — 1, Harold Waddell, 11.481; 2, Bret Peterson, 11.801; 3, Travis Whitlock, 12.319.
King of the Hill — 1, Harold Waddell, 11.602; 2, Travis Whitlock, 11.841; 3, Dave Watson, 11.966; 4, Jason Smith, 12.340; 5, Bret Peterson, 12.611.