By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The summer's first series of drag races hosted by the West End Thunder club that originally were set for Saturday and Sunday have been canceled.
The cancellation occurred because the club lacks insurance coverage for the races, said Melene Bourm, secretary-treasurer of West End Thunder, adding that the problem is expected to be resolved soon.
Races scheduled for July 6-7, Aug. 17-18 and Sept. 14-15 at Forks Municipal Airport, on U.S. Highway 101 just west of Forks, are still expected to continue as planned, Bourm said.
“If you don't have insurance, you are high and dry. We can't risk the health and welfare of participants or liability,” she said.
Bourm said Florida-based T.H.E. Insurance Co. — a specialty insurance carrier for amusement, entertainment and leisure industries — had insured the races for the past five years but declined to renew coverage about six months ago.
The group has been working with an insurance agent to find a new carrier, she said.
“We're disappointed for the fellows who do the races,” Bourm said.
Rod Fleck, city attorney, said Wednesday that many insurance companies that cover such entertainment as auto racing have reconsidered after several high-profile wrecks took place over the past year, such as at the Daytona 500 race.
Bourm said West End Thunder will lose money because of the cancellation but declined to say how much.
Usually, each race weekend attracts between 70 and 90 hot rod and drag race entries. Show car and motorcycle entries cost $15 each day, and entries to the races are $30.
The club also will lose admission proceeds: $10 per person for spectators 13 and older.
Keeping West End Thunder in Forks has been a multiyear battle.
The city and West End Thunder got approval in February from the Federal Aviation Administration to close the airport and hold the races on specified weekends during the summer for five years.
Before that approval, the races were in doubt because of an FAA policy that prohibits airports with grant obligations to close for non-aviation uses. The airport has such obligations.
The city must reapply for events beyond 2017.
West End Thunder drag racing club has conducted a summer racing series at the airport since 2006.
The city and West End Thunder were granted an exception in August 2006 and received extensions.
In 2010, the FAA denied the city's request for an extension, and the city had to fight for 2011 and 2012 race seasons.
For more information on the cancellation or West End Thunder, phone Cary at 360-640-1366 during the day or 360-374-6409 evenings, email email@example.com or visit www.westendthunder.com.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.