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Children standing behind the starting line splash water at their turtles to encourage them toward the outer circle finish line during the Nisswa Turtle Races in Nisswa, Minn. (AP Photo/Brainerd Dispatch, Kelly Humphrey)

The saying goes that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. However, sometimes boredom can lead to great things, like when Nisswa residents founded the Nisswa turtle races 50 years ago. The Nisswa turtle races have become a favorite small-town tradition that brings families, neighbors and tourists together to cheer for their favorite turtle. The City of Nisswa even paved a special “turtle track” to hold the turtle races that you can attend every Wednesday afternoon  in the summer. If you’re vacationing in the Brainerd Lakes area, the turtle races are a must-see, especially for families with young children, who are encouraged to get involved by choosing and racing their own turtles. Here’s what you need to know about the Nisswa turtle races:

  • Where to go: the turtle races are located in downtown Nisswa in a parking lot just off Main Street.
  • When the races are held: every Wednesday throughout the summer (June 4-August 20, 2014) with registration at 1:00 pm and the turtle races starting at 2:00 pm sharp.
  • How a turtle race plays out: depending on the number of racers registered, the races may be broken up into several groups. You choose your turtle and carry him to the starting line in a bucket of water. The racers line up in an inner circle and place the turtles to race towards the outer circle. Water from the buckets is used to keep your turtle motivated and racing towards the finish line.
  • Admission: admission is $4 per race participant and the race participant is given a Nisswa Turtle Races button.
  • Registration: registration begins at 1:00 pm and concludes before the first race starts at 2:00 pm
  • Picking a turtle: turtle size seems to be a constant debate for the races. Some think the smaller they are, the less weight they have, so the faster they are. Some always choose small. Others believe that big size is what matters. Some pick the largest turtles thinking that the bigger the better, the more energy they have, and the faster they will race. According to the turtle race organizers, picking a fast turtle has been a secret for years. They say that turtles are like people and the way they race depends on their mood. And, it always helps if you name your turtle. The turtles are found in creeks and lakes by a local non-profit and are returned there when the racing season is over.
  • Betting on a turtle: friendly family wagers may certainly happen during the course of any given race, however, the Nisswa Chamber disavows any knowledge of these activities.

The Brainerd Lakes Area is the home of so many family-friendly activities, and the Nisswa Turtle Races are certainly a summertime favorite. Follow Cragun’s Resort on Facebook and Twitter for more information on things to do in Brainerd, MN!