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Fox Racing Canada Presents 10 Questions With Melody Hodgson

As we move through this week and look back on the 2023 Walton TransCan, I feel like we all have a real sense of pride and accomplishment. Sometimes just getting to an event and making it to the starting line is a victory for everyone. However, for the Walton TransCan staff members, last week and this week were slightly different. They’re the ones who take the risk and do the work to make sure this event is the best it can be for everyone, whether they’ve driven from down the road or across Canada. We all have thoughts on last week at Walton Raceway, but it’s always nice to hear from the people behind the scenes. Here are 10 Questions With Melody Hodgson Presented By Fox Racing Canada.

MXP:: Well, Mel, you guys did it! The 2023 Walton TransCan is now part of Canadian motocross history. I know it’s only been a few days, but how are you feeling?

MH: Aside from a moderate level of exhaustion, we are all feeling pretty proud of this year’s TransCan. We work on the event year-round, and sometimes you can get lost in the day-to-day planning, but I feel like this year, we were all able to step back and absorb the positivity surrounding the event. We’ve faced our share of challenges since 2016, and realizing how far we’ve come since then feels very full circle.

The weather, for the most part, was great all week, but you can never control that. What you can control is how the track is at the start of the week, and each day. This year you reversed the direction of the track for the first time in many years. I loved it and hope it remains this way for a bit. Overall, were you happy with the feedback you received?

We were incredibly happy with the feedback we received in regard to reversing the track. Considering the first piece of equipment didn’t hit the track until seven days beforehand, it really goes to show you how skilled Barry and our track crew are. Personally, for me as a spectator, I loved the viewing of this track. Even though it’s technically the same track, it just allowed for a better visual flow of the racing. Sounds crazy, but the general consensus was the same. What we also heard time and time again was how “fun” it was to ride, from the amateurs to the pros. We will keep it this way for a few years, at least!

The last piece of the track puzzle was the starting line and how it would be configured. Looking back now to the motos from last week, the new start appeared to work great! Even the pro riders liked it!

The starting line was absolutely the last piece of the puzzle. We had a few riders (amateur, vet, and pro) test sections and provided their feedback before setting it in place. We will make a few changes for next year; Jess Pettis had a great point in that from the top at the gates, visually, it’s hard to determine where that first corner turn is exactly. For 2024 we’ll make sure there’s something to indicate where the inside line is.

One of the new features this year was the start and by all accounts it worked great. Photo by James Lissimore

This year saw a large amount of entries, and most of the classes were full. Were you happy with the number of riders and how each region in Canada was represented?

Entries were strong from the day we opened up registration for the event in January. Throughout the eight months leading into TransCan, I often thought back to 2018, when we were just praying to hit 400 riders – I had a sticky note on my computer keeping an updated tally. Seeing that number creeping toward 900 entries felt incredibly rewarding, especially considering that we are a limited-entry event (meaning no onsite qualifiers). This year also saw a greater depth of riders from all over Canada; so many families invested in this event, trusting us to deliver on the promise of what the TransCan is, which made us all stand a little prouder. 

Each year Walton Raceway makes investments in its infrastructure, and for 2023 visitors were treated to the new swimming area located right in front of the pro shop. It was a hit last week with kids and their families. How did that idea come about, and are you happy with how it turned out?

That idea was entirely Brett’s – a neighbour built a natural swimming a few years back, and it’s been on his mind ever since. The funding for the pond was actually through our non-profit, the Edge of Walton Community Project. Due to COVID-19, tourism-based non-profits had funding streams open to them through various sources. The Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), made that dream a reality, and Jamie and the Edge of Walton crew deserve much credit for its existence.

The fact that the pond is natural also really aligns with the other half of the property, which isn’t moto-based. Anyone swimming in it this week would have swam alongside tadpoles – something a chlorine pool wouldn’t have allowed us to facilitate. Seeing so many kids and families enjoying the pond each day was awesome.

We know things can be different behind the scenes, but last week there appeared to be a high level of calm and organization each day. Overall, was this a smooth-running Walton TransCan?

I knocked on wood about 20 times daily, acknowledging those same thoughts. Our crew absolutely killed it this week – from the gate staff, track crew, medics, and onsite officials – it honestly was our smoothest TransCan ever. Brett and I were away for most of the summer with the race team, and our guys kept the doors open and the wheels turning. We’re incredibly fortunate to have the staff we do; they are such a solid crew.

We’ll see everyone next year! Photo by James Lissimore

We can all imagine what the busy week before the Walton TransCan looks like with last-minute getting done. However, what does the week after TransCan look like for you and your staff? It must feel strange once everyone leaves the property.

The week after TransCan is probably our least favourite time of year. We’re tired, but the place demands our attention. Between garbage, signage, tents, equipment returns, and track rebuilding – there’s no rest. The one thing we notice most of all is how many flies are around now that the thousands of people have left, and there’s only us left to bug (laughs).

But if this is our most tiresome week of the year, I have nothing to complain about. We’re fortunate that we choose to live this life, and the entire country and industry support us in that vision.

Are there a few moments that stand out as your favourite from last week?

We had this discussion around the dinner table last night. For me, I was split between two:

Amateur week always goes by so quickly; I’m lucky to watch one race a day – there’s so much going on behind the scenes. This year we added Stacyc races to the Tykes racing on the peewee track. Because the event is so busy, it’s hard to realize how meaningful those opportunities are to the little racers and their families sometimes. But on stage, during the awards ceremony, seeing how proud and excited everyone was to have Team Canada present the plaques to everyone solidified how important those moments are. I also super loved Stride With Me – Tanner and Montanna did such a phenomenal job putting that together! Nothing but smiles and laughs from everyone lining the track.

For the Pro Day, I’m sure it’s no surprise that Tanner’s second overall takes the top prize for me. Charlee and I were “woo girls” that entire first moto every time he went by, but I was fighting back the tears between the “wooing.” What a storybook ending to the team’s first season – we’ve had some crazy ups and downs. But Tanner never lost faith in Brett and me, even when we weren’t so sure of ourselves. Ending the season on such a high note at our home track in front of our friends and family was the best gift I could ask for. Our entire team deserved to celebrate that one.

Obviously, you and your staff need a few weeks to decompress after the Walton TransCan. But how long do you go before thinking about next year and how to make things even better?

Oh, Lord Palms, we started planning 2024 a month or so ago. The beehive never stops!

I know I speak for everyone when I say thank you for allowing us to camp on your property for a week to race our dirt bikes. On Friday, my chiropractor came over to watch the racing and see what we’ve been talking about for the past few years. He’s never been to a dirt bike race before or anything like the TransCan. He was blown away by how clean, professional, and exciting it was to be there. As racers and families, we obviously love Walton Raceway, but to hear those compliments from someone from the ‘outside world’ must make you feel good.

I’m not a racer. I can get around on a 110 from one side of the property to the other, but it’s not pretty. I love TransCan for the stories and the people that come with them. And I love hearing comments like that from the “outside” world because it means they’re that much closer to joining the good side and being a part of our next story 🙂

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