In every corner of the Harvey Convention Center parking lot, the loud purr of engines revving can be heard as miniature cars whiz around each other, going from intricate designs and circles to perfectly straight lines in a matter of seconds.
Almost effortlessly, a fleet of motorcyclists on one section of the lot performs figure eights in perfect sync. They whip in and out of line, always narrowly missing each other.
As they leave the arena, four pint-sized red Mustangs zip in to take their spots.
The vehicles are a part of the Texas Shrine Association Motor Patrol Association, which was practicing for today’s competition in Tyler.
Inspections begin at 7:15 a.m. at the East Texas State Fair Commercial Building followed by the competition in the Harvey Convention Center parking lot.
The competition is among several events featured in the 78th Annual Texas Shrine Association convention that Tyler is hosting for the first time. The convention began Thursday.
Texas shriners are known for showing off their miniature vehicles and motorcycle skills, and they love to make a spectacle of themselves, said Russ Hobbs, ride captain from the Sharon Shrine of Tyler.
“We want people to notice us and see us,” Hobbs said. “But we do it because we want people to be aware of what we stand for.”
Shriners International, a group known for its fraternity and philanthropy, exists to support its network of hospitals, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which specializes in burns, orthopedics and spinal cord injuries, among others.
On Thursday, each shrine’s motorist groups from around the state practiced to perfection for their stiff competition today.
“Everyone wants to win, but it’s nothing more than a friendly competition,” John Briggs, of the Sharon Shrine of Tyler, said. “We’ve been doing this for years, and we all know each other.”
Chet Timbs, a member of the Sharon Shrine Temple motorcycle corps, said each routine must be no less than eight minutes but no more than 10 minutes. The contests are in large square areas on the lot, and several judges line the edges, all looking for perfection.
Timbs also said each bike and car is inspected for even further flawlessness.
Divisions of the competition are based on the size of the vehicle’s wheels.
For most of the shriners, these events and routines are not exactly new to them. In fact, the majority of the routines are passed down and shown through diagrams to help direct them, Hobbs said.
Robert Russell, of the Karem Shrine of Waco, encouraged the public to come and support the Motor Patrol Association contests today.
“This is just the practice. Come for the real thing when we get all dressed up,” he said. “That’s when we really show off.”