Nisswa turtle racing tradition goes back half a century

Last week my family and I took a little mini-vacation to the Brainerd Lakes area. We did all the typical things, the water park, mini golf, etc., but we also tried to take in some of the local culture. Everyone said we needed to check out the turtle races in Nisswa, and we weren’t disappointed.

For 50 years, city leaders in the small Minnesota city of Nisswa have sponsored turtle races every Wednesday in the summer. Large crowds of locals and tourists join together to share in the Nisswa turtle racing tradition. You can bring your own turtle, or use one of many area turtles wrangled into buckets for just this purpose.

Nisswa, MN, Turtle Races, Aug. 14, 2013

They do a whole program around the turtle races, celebrating the community and history of the event. They thank the volunteers and turtle-wranglers. I would have liked to see more recognition of the turtles. Seems like they have the bulk of the work in this deal. If the turtle you pick wins, “you” are the champion. The turtle gets to go back to the swamp, perhaps to be re-wrangled for future races.

The last Nisswa turtle race of the summer is this Wednesday, with registration at 1 p.m. and races at 2. There is a small race fee, which goes to a local charity. We found that it was a good idea to get their early if you want one of the better race slots. There is a fair amount of waiting, but the races themselves don’t take too long.

They also race turtles in (somewhat) nearby Longville, MN, on Wednesdays. That’s been going on 40 years.

Check out some more amusing photos of the Nisswa turtle scene below the jump:


Scenes from the Aug. 14, 2013 Nisswa Turtle Race:

Your intrepid blogger and son Henry meet the Nisswa uber-turtle.

Henry, Doug and George watch their turtles go … sort of. We didn’t win.

Henry provides some post-race shade for his turtle.

These are very nice turtles.


  1. They used to race rabbits against the turtles, but the rabbits kept stopping to take a nap in the middle of the race.

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