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Carrie Snyder, Published August 18 2013

It's My Job: Man grew up going to the track; now he owns it

GLYNDON, Minn. – It’s just a day at the speedway for those who enjoy catching races at the park here on Highway 10.

But for Kevin Nathe, who owns and manages the Buffalo River Race Park, it’s a full-time job and more to bring the track to life, with roaring engines and seats filled with spectators.

A staple in Glyndon, the track has been hosting stock car and motorcycle races for almost 60 years. Nathe himself watched races there growing up. He first owned and operated a motocross, snocross and go-kart track across the highway from the speedway. In 2007, he purchased the existing speedway across the street and upgraded it into what’s now the Buffalo River Race Park.

On a given night, the track has hundreds of competitors, a thousand spectators and 30 to 40 employees.

To operate the race park, Nathe said he has to be “well-rounded” because it’s a lot more than racing.

How did you get started in the racing industry?

Actually, I started coming out here watching when I was a little kid. Then we started racing out here and traveling around and racing. I’ve just kind of been around it my whole life.

I did car racing and snocross, and we also do motocross. I was involved with all of those at a young age.

How did you go from attending races here to running the show?

In 1999, I bought the land on the south side of Highway 10 (across the highway from Buffalo River Race Park) and opened a motocross track. This came for sale in ’06-’07, and so I ended up buying this also.

Nothing’s over there anymore. That has been sold off, and everything has been moved over here now. It was just easier for us to keep it on one side. It’s a little easier to manage and maintain.

It was in need of some repairs when I did get it. There were no bathrooms, really no concession stand. … We took about half the summer and repaired and rebuilt lots of it.

Is summer the prime time for Buffalo River Racing?

Yeah, our main season … is basically Mother’s Day weekend ’till the middle of September.

In the summer, we’re probably best known for our Corn Cob National. It’s the second weekend in September. It’s a two-day event, Saturday and Sunday, and there’s free corn. All the sweet corn you can eat both days or until we run out.

Underneath the bleachers it’s just all corn cobs. I can’t even remember how many bushels we go through. It’s crazy.

During the year when it’s not as busy, what are you doing?

We do snocross in the winter, so you’re constantly trying to get snow made because we make all of our own snow.

And you never really quit with car racing. You work on your sales and marketing all winter.

Do you have a background in management?

Yeah, just kind of “School of Hard Knocks” —that’s for sure. Some things you do twice, but then you learn. Or you try to learn the first time, but it seems like we always end up doing it twice. We get it figured out and do the best job we can.

What’s your favorite part about working at the race track?

My favorite part would be probably the night as the races are going on. As a promoter, my big thing is obviously to get as many spectators as we can here.

We can put a race track together that has some fantastic racing.

That’s probably the coolest thing for me: being able to know that these 1,000-1,200 people just got to watch a great race. And it has a lot to do with the racetrack and the prep during the week.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599