West Allis - During the week, this patch of asphalt is a run-of-the-mill, nondescript shopping center parking lot on Highway 100.
On Saturday mornings, that blacktop comes alive as a tire-squealing racetrack for dozens of remote-control car enthusiasts.
As many as two-dozen remote control racers stop by HobbyTown USA, 1704 S. 108th St., to run their model creations in a series of friendly competitions. Dozens of other spectators typically stop by — some planned, others spontaneously — and cheer on the racers.
“We offer it each week, rain or shine,” said Diane Waterman, co-owner of the Allis HobbyTown USA store with her son, Tony Waterman.
“The people who show up are very enthusiastic about it,” she said
In the event of rain or other inclement weather, HobbyTown USA provides indoor accommodations.
Although the racing itself does not begin until 1 p.m., many participants show up late in the morning to chat with fellow enthusiasts, exchange ideas about building ideal model remote-control vehicles and practice before official racing begins.
The competition started as a one-time event three-years ago over the Fourth of July weekend. After a strong response, Waterman said he and his mother decided to make it a weekly offering. For two years, it has become a tradition for area racers.
“It just sort of grew from that very first race,” he said. Tony Waterman oversees and organizes the races. Each week, clipboard in hand, he keeps score and tells racers when their heats are scheduled.
“We kept hearing from guys who wanted to do more and more,” he said. “Once we started making this a regular thing, a really close-knit group was formed. People like this because of the fun atmosphere.”
The racers come from all walks of life, he said, which is part of the beauty behind the competitions. Enthusiasts young and old, from a swath of professions, gather each week and share in a common interest.
Depending upon the number of participants and the specific types of model vehicles entered each week, Tony Waterman typically divides the competition into eight or nine different classes. The goal, he said, is to have competitors race similar types of models against one another.
Many of the participants enter multiple models each week, with upward of 60 hitting the pavement throughout an individual competition.
In an effort to keep the event fresh — and unpredictable — he plans a different track each week. Depending upon the configuration, a course could be optimal for speed. On other weeks, however, the layout can be vastly different and accommodate racers with technical prowess.
The racetrack layout this past Saturday, for instance, heavily leaned toward technical maneuvering. The makeshift white piping used to lay out the racetrack had a number of twists and turns. Racers seeking speed risked tipping over their model vehicle.
But Tony Waterman is quick to point out no one takes the competitions too seriously. Prizes, after all, are not offered.
“The winners have bragging rights — that’s all,” he said. “We’re just here because we enjoy this as a hobby. It’s a fun, relaxed environment.”
The Watermans and other HobbyTown USA staffers will offer a class, Project Build, next month for those who are interested in building their own model remote-control vehicle. He said he anticipates a new group of people joining in on the competitions once the class is offered.
The store offers only one prerequisite for people interested in taking part in the competitions.
“You should enjoy it,” Waterman said. “If you’re not enjoying it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”