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STEVE PERRY BUYS RUSTY PALMS $450,000 AT AUCTION

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

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Former Wendover, Utah Mayor and local entrepeneur Steve Perry was the winning bidder for the Rusty Palm in a sparsely attended auction Thursday.

Perry’s winning bid of $450,000 was less than double the $250,000 opening call.

According to the rules of the auction the bid must be approved by the seller, Celtic Bank, who also has first right of refusal.

The Rusty Palms won final approval from the West Wendover City Council in November 2008 and construction began almost immediately and continued through the winter on the estimated $2.5 million project. However while workers began building Weinstein began to receive troubling news, several of the businesses who first expressed interest in began to receive troubling news, several of the businesses who first expressed interest in coming to the Palms either backed out or went out of business as the Great Recession began to take its toll in Utah.

HR BlocK 2015 Ad

 Facing prospects of a diminishing list of possible tenant Weinstein began to look for ways to save his investment and found one– turn it into a casino.

The only hitch to the plan was West Wendover 150 room hotel room minimum ordinance passed the year before.

Six years ago the council passed an ordinance severely restricting new casino development and putting a requirement that a new casino had to have at least 150 hotel rooms before it could win council okay.

The restrictions are not unique to West Wendover. Indeed several Nevada cities have similar restrictions on the books.

However in West Wendover’s case the city has not seen a new casino since 1986 with the exception of a small slot operation inside the Pilot Truck Stop.

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Micaela’s Triumph: Happiness Endures

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

Mickie Costanzo 2010

Mickie Costanzo 2010

Micaela “Mickie” Costanzo was remembered this weekend by the track meet that bears her name with sadness of her untimely passing yet at the same time joy in her memory.

Celia Costanzo & Patty Eklund

Celia Costanzo & Patty Eklund

If she were still alive Mickie would be nearing her 21st birthday and while what she would have been or would have accomplished in the four years since her death is speculation, one truth that few would argue is that Mickie would be happy.

Happiness that she both embodied and engendered in others was the common thread that ran through all of her eulogies four years ago. Even today when those who knew her speak of her, their tears are quickly followed by smiles and memories of the pretty girl who made people happy simply by being there.

wrecaquaTime passes differently at different ages. For her parents and teachers it seems like only yesterday that Mickie herself was competing in track. But for high school students four years is a different generation. This most recent track meet was significant in that for the first time since she was killed no one on the track either competed with or against Mickie Costanzo. Yet still she is remember and she will be for quite some time thanks to the efforts of her family and her school.

In addition to her track meet, her photo and her basketball jersey take a significant place in the West Wendover High School Gym. There is also a scholarship in her name and there is talk of naming a street after the young woman. Mickie Costanzo will not soon be forgotten. In fact the pretty girl who always smiled is becoming a role model for local girls and a legend for everyone.

centraBut as this daughter of Wendover is mourned and her memory is kept her killers are well on their way to living oblivion. In their most recent annual mugshots both killers exhibit a deadness in their eyes common to inmates.

The lives of Toni Fratto and Kody Patten in their respective prison are excruciatingly monotonous and at the same time incredibly tense.

Kody Patten prison mug 2014

Kody Patten prison mug 2014

Toni Fratto prison mug 2014

Toni Fratto prison mug 2014

Nevada’s Maximum Security Prison in Ely, Patten’s current home is called the “Graveyard”. According to former and present inmates Ely Max earned its name due to what they call the larger than normal number of deaths at the facility than other prisons.

“Ely State Prison is a place of death, stagnation, misery, pain, loneliness and indeterminate lock down. If you were to take a walk on one of these depressing tiers back here in “the hole,” you would hear many disembodied voices ring out, yelling in anger and frustration, trying to tell you how bad it is for us in here, in between the isolated confines of steel and stone.” Wrote an inmate under the pseudonym of ‘Coyote’ “…I can see why Ely State Prison is labeled “The Graveyard,” there are so many deaths there. It is a locked down, maximum security prison, all but half of one unit – the workers unit – which is on one side of Unit 8…”

Patten was sentence to life in prison with no possibility of parole. While Patten escaped a death sentence with a guilty plea he may come to regret it.

refundhrThere has not been an execution in Nevada in over 30 years and Death Row is considered the nicest place to do time by inmates and guards. The most common cause of death in ESP general population is suicide.

While fellow killer Toni Fratto received what could be considered a more lenient punishment it is so only as a possible

According to law Fratto must serve at least 10 years of her life sentence before she is eligible for parole and then at least eight years of the enhancement for use of a deadly weapon before she could see a release from prison. With her time already served in the Elko County Jail taken into account Fratto could conceivably serve just 17 more years in prison before she is released.

But while possible it is considered extremely unlikely that Fratto will serve the bare minimum of her sentence. Most first parole requests especially for violent crimes such as Fratto’s are denied almost as a matter of course. In addition, relatives of the victim are always notified and invited to attend and participate in parole hearings by the board.

Most would agree that anyone from Mickie Costanzo’s family will plead with the board to release their daughter’s killer early is an extremely unlikely scenario. Much more likely would be a passionate request to keep Fratto behind bars longer.

hr2The biggest factor in just how long Toni Fratto will remain behind bars is of course Toni Fratto and even the most generous assessment of the girl’s character does not bode well for an early release.

Fratto a girl with no history of any child abuse from a large family and a loving home and a devout religious upbringing helped commit the most violent, vicious murders in Wendover’s history.

While her few defenders have blamed Kody Patten’s influence on the girl, the fact remains that Fratto came from a place few inmates in the Nevada woman’s prison can imagine let alone dream about.

And yet surrounded by this broad deep support network, Toni Fratto slaughtered a 16 year old girl because as suggested by her psychological report Kody Patten told her to or as suggested by Patten’s lawyers Fratto was cold calculating evil girl.

Whether as sheep or black widow Fratto’s personality does not bode well for keeping out of serious trouble at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center.

bottRIThe prison located in North Las Vegas houses all Nevada women felons from those convicted of so called victim-less crimes to the most brutal vicious women in the state.

Although not as stressful or as violent as a men’s prison the facility has seen its share of inmate on inmate violence and even inmate on staff violence.

If Toni Fratto is a sheep there are easily over 100 female Kody Paten’s at Florence McClure to get her to do their bidding and if she is a black widow she will be one among many.

Either way Fratto could rack up a list of infractions that would kill her chances of an early release.

“For a very few of the inmates here, the minimum is a real goal and they keep their noses clean,” he said. “But you have to understand you aren’t dealing with normal people. They really don’t have control over their impulses. Most of the inmates here will serve everyday of their maximum sentence.”

In Fratto’s case her maximum is life.

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Gun Complaint Leads To Drugs

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

ratliff

Shawn Ratliff

A call to police about an assault with a fire arm found no weapon but some drugs, reported the West Wendover Police.

On March 22 officers responded to a report of an assault with a weapon. The victim of the incident claimed that Shawn Ratliff, 19 of West Wendover, Nevada, had brandished a firearm and threatened to shoot him. The victim said that Shawn had left the area riding on a scooter prior to police arrival.

bottRIRatliff was later located for an interview. During the interview he denied having a firearm or ever being in possession of a firearm. Ratliff was checked for weapons in his possession.  No weapons were located however Ratliff was found to be in possession of a schedule 1 narcotic. Ratliff was with another male identified as Advil Denslow-Castillo, 23, of Bountiful, Utah. Castillo consented to a search of his person and was also found to be in possession of a schedule 1 narcotic. Both subject were taken into custody without incident.

The original investigation began with the alleged assault with a deadly weapon. After interviews with witnesses and both parties involved the charge could not be coo berated immediately and still remains under investigation.

wrecaqua

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Two Year Wait For Ely Dis-incorporation

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

elydowntown

Ely voters will have two years to make up their minds on whether to disincorporate their city or not.

A bill passed this week in the Nevada legislature will put the question to Ely voters during the next municipal election in June 2017.

Originally the bill had scheduled the disincorporation vote to this year’s general city election but was delayed following a lobbying blitz by several Ely elected officials. Most spoke against the disincorporation and argued that it would be unfair to spring the vote on the electorate with just three months notice.

The legislature agreed and post poned the vote until 2017. Ever since the closure of Kennecott in the late 1970’s the idea of disincorporating Ely has raised its head. Proponents of the idea have argued that such a move would save vast amounts of tax payer dollars in uniting services and doing away with the costs of running a city.

hr2Opponents argue that the savings are not so great especially since the Ely and White Pine County have a joint police force already.

Underneath the pocket book issues could be however a general weariness in the legislature about dealing with Ely politics. One of the most bitterly divided communities in the state Ely and to a lesser extent White Pine County regular has recall elections or rather recall election movements the cost both time and money.

Often political disagreements are resolved by the courts.

In the latest uproar the Ely City Council made up of newly relocated “reformers” came up against the “good old boys” native Ely residents on the Rail Road Management board.

In what was called an effort to embarrass the Rail road Board the city council paid $10,000 for an audit of the Rail Road’s books.

centraWhile the audit found no evidence of criminal or financial wrong doing it did slight the board for sloppy bookkeeping. Both sides took the audit result as a sign of victory.

Although the pro-disincorporation movement could have the upper hand now the fact that the vote is now delayed for tw years could mean everything.

Ely and White Pine County could be on the verge of a gold mining boom with two major mines well into the permitting process. The influx of people and perhaps an economic boom could change everything once again.

bottRI

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WWHS Becker Dominates

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

blain Becker

 

West Wendover Track phenom Blaine Becker took home firsts in the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints in last Friday’s meet. click link for full results:Results Micaela Costanzo Meet 2015

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IMG_2598IMG_2601HR BlocK 2015 AdwrecaquaIMG_2601IMG_2864IMG_2861IMG_2593IMG_2606

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BREAKING NEWS: STEVE PERRY BUYS RUSTY PALMS $450,000 AT AUCTION

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

rusty

Former Wendover, Utah Mayor and local entrepeneur Steve Perry was the winning bidder for the Rusty Palm in a sparsely attended auction Thursday.

Perry’s winning bid of $450,000 was less than double the $250,000 opening call.

According to the rules of the auction the bid must be approved by the seller, Celtic Bank, who also has first right of refusal.

The Rusty Palms won final approval from the West Wendover City Council in November 2008 and construction began almost immediately and continued through the winter on the estimated $2.5 million project. However while workers began building Weinstein began to receive troubling news, several of the businesses who first expressed interest in coming to the Palms either backed out or went out of business as the Great Recession began to take its toll in Utah.

HR BlocK 2015 AdFacing prospects of a diminishing list of possible tenant Weinstein began to look for ways to save his investment and found one– turn it into a casino.

The only hitch to the plan was West Wendover 150 room hotel room minimum ordinance passed the year before.

Six years ago the council passed an ordinance severely restricting new casino development and putting a requirement that a new casino had to have at least 150 hotel rooms before it could win council okay.

The restrictions are not unique to West Wendover. Indeed several Nevada cities have similar restrictions on the books.

However in West Wendover’s case the city has not seen a new casino since 1986 with the exception of a small slot operation inside the Pilot Truck Stop.

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W. Wendover Nix To Liquor License For New BBQ Restaurant

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

Jeff Dunham

Jeff Dunham

In a split 3-2 vote the West Wendover City council denied a liquor license to Jeff Dunham based on two misdemeanor convictions of more than a decade ago.

“I believed that Mr. Dunham deserved a second chance,” said Councilwoman Jasie Holm. Holm along with Izzy Gutierrez voted for Dunham to serve liquor at his newly open barbecue restaurant. Holm and  Gutierrez were out numbered by Councilmen John Hansen, Jerry Andersen and Nick Flores.

The council were evidently swayed by a background check by West Wendover Police Chief Burdel Welsh.

According to Councilwoman Holm, Dunham had an arrest for marijuana possession and one arrest for DUI.

centra“They were both over 10 years ago,” Holm said. “Mr. Dunham has been in Wendover since 2002. He has never been arrested in Wendover and he has held responsible positions in the local casino industry. I really don’t understand why they denied him a license.”

Dunham had been waiting for the city approval of his liquor license before he opened officially.

“We’ll be open tomorrow at Noon till 9pm and will run thru Sunday,” he said a month ago. “We will stay with the 4 day schedule until our liquor license is approved, then we’ll be open 7 days a week.

We feature many BBQ and Smoker specialties, Pulled Pork and Ribs, Grilled Chicken, Flank Steak and Smoked Turkey Breast.  Sides this weekend are Bacon Cheesy Mac, Au Gratin Potatoes, baked beans and our homemade Cornbread.

Our menu will change often, think of it as a summer cookout, served take out style…I’ve spent most of my adult life in computer sales/consulting and the food and beverage industry.  I’ve always enjoyed playing poker, so I moved to West Wendover in 2002 to pursue a career in the casino business.

bottRI“I took a position as a restaurant supervisor at the Rainbow and spent the next year and a half working my way into the poker room.” Dunham wrote in a previous email from last year. “ I’ve spent the last decade since working as a dealer and supervisor at the Rainbow, Montego Bay and Wendover Nugget while pursuing many travel opportunities in the business, working for Card Player Cruises, Ante Up Magazine, and at WSOP and WPT events all over the world.  In my almost 12 years here in West Wendover I have sprouted roots and consider this my hometown.  I am currently the Poker Room Manager at the Wendover Nugget.  My goal is to see West Wendover continue to grow and to keep this a place that my kids and I are proud to call home.”

While the two convictions could have been taken in consideration they should have not meant the complete denial of the permit.

“We as a council could have put a lot of conditions,” Holm added. “Like putting him on probation for a year or making him re-up after 18 month. It didn’t have to be this way.”

wrecaqua

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Autopsy For Utah Woman Underway

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

morgan 4

The Elko County Sheriff’s office has ordered an autopsy on the body of Malorrie Morgan a 29 year old Taylorsville woman who was found dead in her hotel room an month ago.

“It is pretty unusual,” said a source close to the investigation. “Usually a toxicology report is all that is required but this time around the full autopsy was ordered. It will be a while before the results are in.”

A toxicology report involves testing blood samples of the victim for a variety of substances that can cause death. The much more invasive autopsy is another word for dissection.

“I don’t know whether the autopsy was ordered in deference to her father or not.” Continued the source. “But it is unusual.”

According to West Wendover Police Chief Burdel Welsh Malorrie Morgan, 29, of Taylorsville Utah was found dead in her hotel room at the Montego Bay Casino/Resort the morning of February 3rd.

bottRIMorgan had arrived in Wendover Monday with common-law husband Mike Rasmussen also of Taylorsville.

“There were no preliminary signs of foul play,” said WWPD Chief Burdel Welsh. .”However the autopsy and toxicology reports have not come in yet.

The dead woman in the daughter of Nephi, Utah Police Chief Mike Morga nand the mother of six children.

But while no signs of foul play have been discovered several bloggers identifying themselves as relatives of the dead woman have all but alleged Morgan’s death was no accident.

“This is sad our beautiful niece. I hope justice will be served and the truth comes out.” wrote Carla Covington on the High Desert Advocate’s web page. “We have faith In the Nevada police and all officers investigating this. Praying the truth comes out.love and miss you beautiful”

centraOthers lambasted that blogger: “ just wanted to clarify that Mallorie Morgan (Rasmussen) & Michael Rasmussen where in Wendover for the Super bowl with their 7 children (one is her step child) all of which where in the room together.” wrote blogger A Family Member. “She did not die alone, she was surrounded by her loving family who are clearly devastated, and who ever you are Carla Covington? I have never heard your name in 14 years, be assured she was loved and did not die “unattended”. Her father loves his daughter deeply and is devastated to say the least, and the comments you have made are purely inappropriate. Please refrain from making false statements in which cause more pain to the FAMILY.”

wrecaqua

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Bassett Hits Back At “Forensic” Auditors

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

Marty Westland  top right. Bassets bottom left

Marty Westland top right. Bassets bottom left

Editor’s note: We are happy to provide to our readers NNRY Executive Director’s response the the recently completed ‘Forensic Audit”

A Steamin Miracle

By Mark Bassett

The long awaited forensic audit was released last week by Larry Bertsch, CPA. In his presentation, Mr. Bertsch stated, “…the railroad is on a ‘going out of business’ curve.” Candidly, to those of us involved in the railroad, this news comes as no surprise. Money is always very, very tight at the railroad, yet somehow, we keep the doors open and the trains running.

The railroad has been short of money since the day it was given to the City of Ely and the Foundation. It was an incredible gift that was given to the community by Kennecott, but it was a gift that was given without money. It would be up to the Foundation to raise the money to keep the railroad alive, not the City of Ely taxpayers.

And what a gift it was and is; over seventy buildings and structures, thirty miles of railroad track, one steam locomotive, three diesel locomotives, about 100 antique railroad cars and an incomparable historic paper record. On top of all that, the Foundation is also responsible for the roads and the utilities on the railroad grounds: water, sewer, electricity and phone. Essentially, it is a small city, but without a tax base.

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  Candidly, the railroad should have failed financially a long time ago. If you are looking for proof that the age of miracles is not yet over, I submit the Nevada Northern Railway, National Historic Landmark in Ely, Nevada, as proof that miracles still happen today.

As Mr. Bertsch stated, yes, we should have gone out of business already, but yet, somehow, we have not only survived, but against impossible odds, we have flourished.

When the community asked for the railroad, the economic future of the community was bleak. The mine had already closed and then the smelter closed. The major employer was gone and so were all of the jobs. Anywhere else people would have thrown up their hands and said, ‘woe is me.’ But in Ely, the community had the guts to think that they could use the Nevada Northern Railway as an economic generator for the community. And those farsighted individuals were right. Since the trains started running, the railroad has brought approximately $72,000,000 into our community. And this is the great irony – the vast majority of that money went into the community and not into the railroad.

Last year the railroad generated about $4,000,000 for the community and our income from train operations and the gift shop was $344,098. What that means is – that for every dollar the railroad brings into the community, it receives 9¢, the other 91¢ goes into the community creating jobs and economic growth.

So how does the railroad survive? When I started as Executive Director in July 2002 in the previous two years, the railroad had losses of over $1,000,000. Locomotive 40 was out of service needing $500,000 in repairs before she would run again. On the building front: the Machine Shop/Enginehouse building, the Master Mechanic Building, the Bus Barn, the Blacksmith Shop, the Chief Engineer’s Building, the Material Storage Building, Air Brake Building, the Wrecker Shed and the McGill Depot all had grave structural issues, and some of the buildings were on the verge of collapse.

hr2And if that was not enough, the railroad had track issues, bridge issues, tunnel issues, highway crossing issues and the electrical wiring throughout the railroad was dangerous. And to top it off, the bank account was empty. Mr. Bertsch should have seen our books then.     

So what happened? Lots! On every front! New Management Board members were recruited, grants were written, more trains operated, more volunteers were recruited and a dynamic membership program was started.

Slowly, like one of our steam locomotives starting up, things started to turn around. In 2002, we started to stop the bleeding of money. In 2003, we made money, in 2004, we lost, 2005 in the black, 2006, 2007 and 2008 all in the red. Then in 2008, JACKPOT!  $1,646,485 in the black! Since 2002, even with all of the losses, the Foundation ended up $2,429,385 in the black.

So if the Foundation made all of that money, why is the Foundation always broke? Why is it in debt? And what is that debt?  And is the Foundation paying down that debt and can the City of Ely taxpayers get struck with that debt. Good questions all.

wrecaquaLet’s start with why is the Foundation always broke? Remember those eight buildings with grave structural issues? All of them have been stabilized except one. On his last walk-through of the Machine Shop/Enginehouse building, the structural engineer said, “This building will stand for another hundred years.” That was a huge change from, ‘…the building is condemned and people should not be allowed in it.’

Steam locomotives 40 and 93 are in service, along with diesel locomotives 105, 204 and 310. The passenger coaches, 5, 7, 8, 9 are in service, along with cabooses 3, 6 and 22. Track, railroad crossings, bridge and tunnel issues have all been addressed. Electrical, water and sewer issues have also been addressed.

Why is the Foundation in debt? Debt is an aspect of doing business. We needed to borrow money to keep our steam locomotives in operation. Without our operating steam locomotives, visitors won’t make the drive to Ely. We learned that lesson in 2008. Would the Management Board prefer that the Foundation be debt free? Yes, in fact that is one of the goals of the Management Board and has been for years.

As of February 28, total debt of the Foundation was $468,467. This is down $49,551 from last year. The Foundation’s debt peaked at $2,419,411 in 2008. Since that time the Foundation has been aggressively paying down its debt with money it has raised and not with taxpayer’s money. There has always been a separation between the Foundation’s money and taxpayer’s money. This separation needs to continue.

centraAre the City of Ely taxpayers liable for the debts of the Foundation? Yes, but and this is a very big BUT, if the Foundation were to close tomorrow and had to liquidate its assets, it would have enough unrestricted assets to pay off all of its debts and still have money. Unfortunately, if we were to do this, we may not have an operating railroad anymore. That would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water, not a very smart move.

Since 2002, the Foundation has raised over $15,000,000 and invested that right back into the railroad. Our operating income has gone from $281,518 to $1,517,052 in 2012. While that is admirable, the fact of the matter is that we need to raise another $20,000,000. Can we do it? Yes! Will it be easy? No, but it can be done.

The Bertsch report makes valid points. A lot of the issues he raises are a result of our growth and having to make crucially needed repairs when we didn’t have the money to do so. But the elephant in the room that his report does not address, is how to overcome our chronic cash flow problem?

shoshoneThe Management Board is painfully aware of the cash flow problem of the Foundation. For the past year, it has been developing the Phoenix Dare. The goal of the Dare is to insure that the museum can accomplish its mission and become financial sound. The Phoenix Dare is a Capital Campaign to develop the financial resources needed to keep the railroad on track! The first phase of the Dare is to raise $2,000,000 in 2 years over and above our regular income stream. Future phases will attack the remaining $18,000,000 needed by the Foundation.

Mr. Bertsch is wrong in his assessment. We are not on a going-out-of-business curve. The Foundation has survived train wrecks, earthquakes, track issues, bridge issues, expensive locomotive repairs and the Great Recession. Rather, the Management Board is confident that the future of the railroad is bright. And this is said based on history, experience and the numbers.

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Work Begins Bonneville Club Project

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Howard Copelan

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Preliminary work for Wendover’s newest development The Bonneville Club is set to begin this month confirmed project principal Russell Taylor.

Approved late last year the Club would be a unique development for extremely high end car enthusiasts who want to see just how fast their car (s) will go on the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats.

“We are probably the only community that not only has salt flats but also an airport,” said Wendover Mayor Mike Crawford. “It is a perfect match.”

bottRIThe multi million project consists of 34 duplex units with state of the art storage garages to protect automobiles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The preliminary grading will be done by local contractor Brett Shelton.

“We want to contract with as many local businesses as possible,” Taylor said. “It will be a win-win relationship for us and for Wendover.”

The Salt Flats are public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is known for land speed records at the “Bonneville Speedway” that has been used to test speed almost since the invention of the automobile.

centraRacing takes place at part of the Bonneville Salt Flats known as the Bonneville Speedway. There are five major land speed events that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bonneville “Speed Week” takes place mid-August followed by “World of Speed” in September and the “World Finals” take place early October.

These three events welcome cars, trucks, and motorcycles. The “Bub Motorcycle Speed Trials” are for motorcycles only. World records are contested at the Mike Cook ShootOut in September. The Southern California Timing Association and the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association organizes and plans the multi-vehicle events, but all event promoters contribute to prepping and maintaining the salt.

wrecaqua

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