Gladys Edwards is something of an icon — to the competitors and fans who have watched her drag race at Bonne Terre for the past two decades, and for the hundreds of children she’s helped provide back-to-school supplies for just about as long.
An event this weekend was meant to honor Edwards, but the hardworking racing granny has, in her typical fashion, turned the event into a fundraiser for the children.
Big River Sand Drags will host the “2009 Grandma Gladys Vehicle ET National” at the track this Saturday evening. Sponsored by the track and Andy’s Garage, the race will bring races in the Vehicle ET class together from across the Midwest — all vying to snatch the night’s winnings out of Gladys’ grasp, while honoring the local racer who has rarely missed a weekly event in the past 20 years.
The gates will open at 2 p.m., wth practice running from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and racing action getting under way at 6:30 p.m. There will be a $35 entry fee for racers wishing to try for the cash, or $15 entry fee in the Vehicle ET “trophy” class. There will also be a Powder Puff Vehicle class, along with an Adult Pee Wee ATV class for additional entertainment for the evening.
But the evening will about more than honoring Edwards. For the past decade she has helped raise funds to purchase back-to-school supplies for area needy children. She serves on a board affiliated with East Missouri Action Agency, and works hard each year to help raise funds and get much-needed supplies and services to children by the start of the school year.
Last year EMAA supplied school supplies and services to about 300 youngsters. This year it’s anticipated the need will be more like 400 children.
Edwards and a team of volunteers raise funds throughout the year. The money is spent to purchase backpacks and school supplies. The volunteers get school supply lists from area districts and then work to fill the backpacks with the necessary goods.
A Back-To-School Fair is held at the start of each school year. This year the date will be Aug. 7. That’s when the backpacks are handed out free-of-charge to the children. Other services delivered that day include new school shoes if needed, and a haircut to make the best impression on that first day of school.
With the permission of the race track owners, Edwards is working to secure a number of high-profile political figures and leaders from the area communities to turn out at the race Saturday night and help raise funds for the back-to-school event.
The track is located off Northwood Drive northeast of Bonne Terre. Directions are as follows: Take U.S. 67 to Hwy K east, turn left on Northwood and go past Huddle House to the race track entrance.
Edwards began racing at the track nearly two decades ago. After she showed a real interest in the sport her husband bought her a brand new four-wheel drive truck to race. Two decades and two engines later Gladys is still giving the competition fits as she routinely takes top honors in her vehicle class at the weekly races at the sand drag strip.
She has been featured in racing publications and newsletters across the country, and won the title of “track champion” and was honored at a regional racing awards banquet in St. Louis along with Nascar and other high-profile drivers.
Spectators are welcome at all races at the track. There are concessions on site. Visit the track’s website at BigRiverSandDrag.com.