It’s so dry, there’s hardly any grass to mow, but it won’t stop dozens of lawn mower racers from trying to cut down their opponents in central Iowa this weekend.

The machines look like typical riding lawn mowers but the helmeted racers compete in various classes from stock grass trimmers to super-modified dragster-mowers.

Bruce Kaufman, a self-titled Mow-It-All and spokesman for the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association, says don’t let the looks of the John Deeres and Cub Cadets fool you.

“These are standard lawn mowers that are souped up in 11 different classes, the ‘mow’ the merrier,” Kaufman says.

“You can spend as little money as you want in something like the I-MOW class, International Mower of Weeds, or go nuts in the factory experimental class. Speeds range from about 6 miles an hour all the way up to 50.”

The racers range in age from kids to grandmothers. “We have anybody between the age of 10 years up up to about 74,” Kaufman says. “We see a lot of male mechanics but we put the ladies right in there with the men.” While it may be difficult to imagine racing a lawn mower, he says it’s just an event you need to experience first-hand.

“You can see a video, you can see them on TV, but until you see these machines up close and in person, you’ll be amazed,” Kaufman says. “The land speed record, Bobby Cleveland, 96 (miles an hour) on a lawn mower.” The racing will be underway Saturday and Sunday southeast of Des Moines at the River Bottom Raceway in Carlisle.

About 70 competitors are expected from across Iowa and from states as far away as Alabama, Florida and Maryland. Racers compete for points, trophies and bragging rights, as well as the occasional garden gnome, not cash prizes. All of the lawn mowers race, by the way, with their blades removed.

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