If you have attended Viking Speedway in Alexandria at all over the past five decades, there is a really good chance Vern Olson has taken your ticket.
Olson, 91, is in his 49th year of working tickets at the half-mile oval. He takes the tickets from fans at the east entry of the grandstand at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
“It’s been fun,” Olson said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
He is known to most Viking Speedway fans as “Vern” and is a fixture at the track.
Olson started working at the track when he had to bring his 13-year-old son to his job at the concession stand in 1970. Olson had to bring h
“I started hanging around and talking with people,” Olson said. “They said if you are going to hang around we are going to put you to work.”
Nearly 50 years later, Vern is still taking tickets — and having a good time each Saturday night at the track.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing,” Olson said. “This way I get to watch the races and meet a lot of good people.”
Olson raced for one season in the early 1950s but because of work demands, he stepped away. He spent many years in the siding and roofing business and actually didn’t officially retire from doing that work until his mid-80s.
He doesn’t have any favorite drivers — he says “there are a lot of good drivers.” Racing has certainly changed.
“It has transformed year to year,” Olson said. “It’s bigger, better and faster. I like to watch the speed and the way they handle their cars. Driving as fast as they do and side by side…it’s quite a sport.”
Next year will be the 50th season of working at Viking Speedway for Vern.
“If I feels good enough, next spring, I’ll do one more year,” Olson said. “50 will be enough.”