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Local BMX track again hosting nationals in August
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Photo: Robert Leistra
BMX Racing Zone owner Paul DePauw stands inside his East Moline business on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Stuffed in the interior of a 1973 Volkswagen van piloted by Paul DePauw, competitive BMX racing rumbled back into the Quad-Cities along a Moline gravel road.

Vanishing from the area in the late 1980s, the sport known as BMX, or bicycle motocross, returned in the late 1990s, partly due to the efforts of Mr. DePauw, a Geneseo native and former BMX racer.

Every Sunday during those fledgling years of BMX's return, Mr. DePauw packed his van with starting gates, sponsor signs, microphones and amplifiers -- all the necessary race gear -- and shipped it to a BMX track near Moline's Green Valley Sports Complex.

The sport hasn't left; rather, it has evolved into a larger operation now located at the East Moline BMX Speedway where Mr. DePauw serves as track director. For the last six years, the speedway (at 1900 42nd Ave., near Reynolds Ford) has hosted the National Bicycle League's BMX Speedway Nationals.

BMX will appear in the Olympics for the first time this summer in Beijing. Some of the U.S.A.'s Olympic BMX hopefuls have raced in East Moline.

While Mr. DePauw said BMX interest continues to grow in the area, he still calls it "The best kept secret," and he's quick to deflect credit for the sports' Q-C re-emergence. He said it's all about the volunteers and support staff that surrounds him.

"When you talk about the track, we've got volunteers that are just the best that help us pull it out," Mr. DePauw said. "It's not just me. My wife (Rhonda) kind of just got drug into it, and the people we've picked up along the way have been fantastic."

The E.M. BMX Speedway has been mentioned on a national, and even international, level in bike racing magazines, Mr. DePauw said.

"The races here couldn't be any easier to enjoy," Mr. DePauw said. "It's free to watch and we have over 40 races a year from late April through early October."

And being involved in that has been a dream come true.

Mr. DePauw started racing in 1981 and he reflects fondly on his days traveling the nation to participate in BMX races. His best memory was made as a youngster when he got his first BMX race win in Springfield, Ill.

"It was just me and my dad (Maurice) on that trip," Mr. DePauw remembered. "We were so happy. It was a night race and a hard race for me to win.

"The time we had right there was a priceless moment."

Maurice DePauw passed away last summer, and Paul left that trophy with his father.

It became a family adventure for the DePauws, and that's just the way it happens today with other families, Mr. DePauw said.

"The majority of the kids (at the track) are between age 8 and 14," he said. "We've had a lot of moms and dads. It instills into the family. The people on the sidelines get tired of just hanging out and they want to try."

Some particularly dedicated and talented local riders have garnered national recognition over the 16 years Mr. DePauw has been running the track. He cites Hampton 16-year-old Andy Wright as an example.

"This summer, he's flying to Arizona and to Puerto Rico," Mr. DePauw said. "He's one of the top riders in the country."

Mr. DePauw said the track will be renovated this year, with running water, concession stands and bathrooms being added. The speedway will host this year's nationals on Aug. 2 and 3.

Despite all of his enthusiasm and time spent toward promoting BMX in the Quad-Cities, Mr. DePauw still finds time to stay involved in his life's second passion -- music.

In 1990, Mr. DePauw graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood. He continues to perform in live shows on the weekend and has been giving guitar lessons for years.

"Things are busy, but we have a lot of good people at the track, and certainly on my end my wife has made it possible to do these things," Mr. DePauw said. "I can't complain. I've been able to take the things I did as a kid and continue with it."

u Age: 37.

u Born: Geneseo.

u Resides: Colona.

u Family: Wife Rhonda, daughter Marri, 3 1/2, son Mahlon, 1 1/2.

u The BMX biz: Helped bring BMX back to the Quad-Cities in the early 1990s. Became East Moline BMX Speedway track director in 1992. Opened BMX Racing Zone storefront at 2905 19th Street, East Moline, in 1994.

u Off the track: A 1990 graduate of the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, Calif., DePauw stays active in music, performing often with bands "Down 4 Whatever" and "Fusion Intrusion." DePauw also gives private guitar lessons.

u On the Web: E.M. BMX Speedway schedules can be found at www.eastmolinebmx.com.

Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)