Hold on to your drinks, friends -- turtle racing has hit the bar scene. Yep, as in the creature that wears a shell and came out with a victorious upset in some race with a rabbit.
Inspired by Big Joe's, a Chicago dive bar, Bucky's Grill and Pub in Indianapolis decided to bring the sport of turtle racing to their city. Co-owners J Euneman and Nate Van Pelt purchased the bar in early February, gave it a swift makeover and hosted its first turtle racing event Saturday, Feb. 20.
It may come as a surprise, but the wobbly little things actually make for an unpredictable and exciting event come race time. And although they have somewhat of a slow reputation, the amphibious turtles used for racing at Bucky's are quite speedy on land.
"People go crazy over it," says Van Pelt. "People even have their own little bets on the side for drinks and food. You just hear this big sigh when the turtle they're rooting for suddenly stops."
Depending on the crowd, four to five of these exciting turtle races are held every Saturday night around 10 p.m. Every drink purchased gets the buyer one raffle ticket. Come race time, the tickets are drawn to see who is assigned as an honorary jockey to each of the six turtles. (The turtles, by the way, have clever names like Salisbury Strutter, Bermusa and Butkus.)
First place gets a T-shirt that reads "My turtle got lucky at Bucky's," and last place gets a complimentary shot. In some cases, coming in last place is probably harder than coming in first.
"Some of the turtles will be sprinting all out and then stop two inches before the finish line," explains Van Pelt. Hey, turtles get tired, too.
Now, before any animal-rights protesters get their vegan-friendly panties in a twist, know that nobody aside from the licensed reptile dealer handles the turtles.
"We wouldn't do it any other way," Van Pelt explains to Asylum. "We know the [Department of Natural Resources] would be all over us, otherwise. We make sure everything we're doing is right."
And if activists are still ready to throw a royal conniption?
"I'm just going to tell them they're out of line," says Van Pelt. "It would be like yelling at someone for walking their dog. Our turtles are kept by a professional."