Ransomville Speedway: History, Community, and Culture at a Dirt Track

Installation photo of the Ransomville Speedway exhibition, courtesy of the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, 2021

Ransomville Speedway: History, Community, and Culture at a Dirt Track

Oct 9, 2021 - Apr 8, 2022

Overview

The soaring engines and roaring crowds;
split-second decisions and watchful eyes.

Everywhere you turn at a dirt track, you experience the unique artistic expression of history, community, and culture in the workplace: also known as occupational folklife.

The Ransomville Speedway in Ransomville, New York is one of the most storied dirt tracks in the state, and was first founded in the 1950s by a group of local racers that started a club known as the Ransomville Slowpokes.

Today, the Ransomville Speedway continues to be an important community space for the Buffalo-Niagara region, and a hotbed of cultural expression: from narratives and customs to foodways and skilled techniques.

Cultural knowledge at a dirt track can be found across its many positions: crew teams, concession stand workers, drivers, maintenance workers, management, photographers, pit stewards, race directors, scorers, starters, and more.

Through an Archie Green Fellowship awarded by The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in 2020, Edward Millar (Curator of Folk Arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University) partnered with Jenn Martin, Jeff Anstett, and Tom Stevens to conduct interviews with workers, drivers, and race teams at the Ransomville Speedway: helping tell and preserve its story in a national archive.

A story of history, community, and culture: a story about people.

Text & Fieldwork: Edward Y. Millar, Curator of Folk Arts, Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University

Photographs: Tom Stevens, Track Photographer, Ransomville Speedway

Design: Jennifer Nichols, Graphic Designer

Click here to download a digital copy of the exhibit catalog.

The Ransomville Speedway: History, Community, and Culture at a Dirt Track is made possible in part through an Archie Green fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; Niagara University; Ed’s Garage; Jenn Martin, Jeff Anstett, Tom Stevens, and the Ransomville Speedway.


Following the project’s completion in Summer 2021, The Ransomville Speedway: Dirt Track Workers in Western New York will become an official collection of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, comprised of over fifteen interviews and over a hundred photos.

Click here to visit the Occupational Folklife Project (OFP), an initiative by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress documenting the culture of contemporary American workers, and where the materials collected in this project will be accessible online when published.