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Night Out: Big Star and Bike Races

7/8/2019 - Francesca Angel

Family-Friendly, Foodie, Sports & Outdoors
Summertime Fun means dinners at Big Start Drive-In and Bike Races at the Washington Park Velodrome
Summertime Fun means dinners at Big Start Drive-In and Bike Races at the Washington Park Velodrome
Summertime Fun means dinners at Big Start Drive-In and Bike Races at the Washington Park Velodrome
Summertime Fun means dinners at Big Start Drive-In and Bike Races at the Washington Park Velodrome
Summertime Fun means dinners at Big Start Drive-In and Bike Races at the Washington Park Velodrome

Growing up as a “Northsider” in Kenosha, there were two things that always marked the unofficial start of summer for me: Big Star’s reopening and bike races at the Velodrome. As luck would have it, I lived across the street from one location and less than a block from the other. This meant that, from my front yard, I could see the iconic flashing lights of the ‘big star’ and hear the sounds of the races as the bicyclists circled around the track. How cool!

If you’ve lived in Kenosha for any length of time, it was a well-known fact that opening day at Big Star Drive-In is kind of a big deal. The restaurant, which opened in 1954, begins their season around March every year, and closes Labor Day weekend, once the food runs out. You can count on this family-owned drive-in to provide something the whole family can enjoy, on a very affordable budget (the cheeseburgers are just $1.55 each!). They serve everything from burgers and fries, to chicken and salad, and even a Friday Fish Fry. You can’t forget their shakes, malts, or the root beer, either. Pull your car up, roll the window down and order a root beer with your meal, and it’ll arrive in a frosted mug. Prefer to walk or ride your bike? No problem. There are two picnic tables with ample seating to enjoy your meal outside. The roof overhead provides respite from the sun as well. 

Recently, I visited Big Star with my best friends and my sons, where we all enjoyed our meals before heading over to the Velodrome to watch the Tuesday night races. We had to show the boys what our childhood was like – and we were excited for them to experience the same eats and thrills.

The Washington Park Velodrome, affectionately called the “bike circle” or the “Washington Bowl” by locals, is the oldest operating velodrome in the United States, since 1927. For those unfamiliar with the word (as I was before moving to Kenosha), a velodrome is an oval shaped cycling track with steeply banked curves. The Washington Park Velodrome operates races on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights beginning in May through August. Monday nights are Stock Bike Racing nights, which is an introduction to track racing. According to their website, racers as young as three can bring their own bike and helmet to race against others their own age. This is a family oriented evening as people of all ages can participate. Just bring your bike and helmet, register for a small fee ($3-5), and you’re off to the races!

Prefer to be a spectator? Grab a lawn chair, picnic blanket, or even just a seat on the ledge next to the track, and you can watch for free. Tuesday night races are especially fun as these are ‘Premier Fixed Gear Racing’ nights. Racers from Wisconsin and Illinois participate in both endurance and sprint races, on fixed gear bikes with no breaks. The cyclists can reach speeds above 35mph. Crazy, right? And if you didn’t get a bite to eat at Big Star beforehand like we did, you can enjoy one of the delicious offerings from Grab's Burger Bar at the Monday Night races or the Pop Up Beer Garden operated by The Buzz every Tuesday night. Nothing beats eating local food at the local bike track!

Wednesday evenings are Masters and Rookies races. The events begin at 7 p.m. and are focused on timed races. Racers can be seen riding track bikes or stock bikes, with both newbie and experienced skill levels. The master riders use these races to perfect their techniques before heading off to World Master Championships.

While my friends and I enjoyed the race from different spots along the perimeter of the track, my sons enjoyed playing in the grass along the fence line, looking up as the bikes flew past their little faces. My 2.5 year old especially enjoyed watching the cyclists in action. (They really enjoyed the French fries at Big Star, too.) Whether you choose to make a night of it, and enjoy both the bike races at the Velodrome and a meal at Big Star, or frequent them individually, they’re both worth visiting the next time you’re on the northside. You can find more affordable fun like these Kenosha classics on the Fun 101 list

Community Blogger Francesca Angel

Francesca Angel

Community Blogger

Relocated to Kenosha in 1997, called it home ever since. Loving life near the lake with my energetic sons and patient husband. Discount shopper, knowledge-seeker, food lover, and occasional crafter.

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