Sanders race at record speeds in Freeland

Mike Foley is named the winner of the Hawaiian shirt contest during Frontier Building Supply
Mike Foley is named the winner of the Hawaiian shirt contest during Frontier Building Supply's seventh annual Belt Sander Races in Freeland. He was proudly showing off his hula skirt as the crowd cheered him on to victory.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley

FREELAND — The stakes were high.

The winner of the Belt Sander Race at Frontier Building Supply in Freeland walked away $300 richer and with bragging rights beyond the island’s shores.

The lumber yard held its annual Big Kahuna Belt Sander Race Friday. The company has put on the races for the past seven years and the event has been growing in size and popularity.

This year 24 racers signed up for the contest, said saleswoman Diane Willis.

In this fiercely competitive sporting event, two belt sanders raced against each other, and based on the “sudden death” principle, the weaker ones dropped out and the winners moved on.

It took some real grit to win the race.

The “belt operators” picked a grain of sandpaper that they believed would propel them to victory, and some added a little extra power to their machines.

“Some add a little to beef up the sander,” Willis said. “Sometimes they crash.”

The team of Frontier Building Supply set up a 30-foot-long race track, complete with a buffer zone at the end of the track.

The machines were hooked up to long extension cords. With a flip of a switch, the race was on.

A radar gun at the end of the track clocked the racers. Speeds exceeded 15 mph, but the average speed was about 8 mph.

“Our contractors love this event and are quite serious about it,” Willis said.

This year’s fastest belt sander belonged to Chris Ceci, who also won $300 in prize money. Kelley Reid came in second and won $200.

The competition was open to any Freeland contractor or Frontier Building Supply customer.

About 150 people came out to see the races on Friday. They enjoyed hot dogs, burgers and ice-cold drinks while browsing vendor booths.

True to this year’s Hawaiian theme, a Hawaiian shirt contest was held. Winner Mike Foley got a $75 check and a six-pack cooler for his winning ensemble.

But the competition was fierce. The runner-up wore a replica of Tom Sellek’s “Magnum PI” signature shirt.

Frontier Building Supply is located at 1800 Main St., Freeland. For more information, call 331-1711 or check out the Website at

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarxwheatley@southwhidbey

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