Delaware Fair starting gate arrives in Hungary
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So Wolf began searching for a good used starting gate, which was no easy task.
"I contacted the two major companies that build starting gates in the USA," Wolf said. "And either they did not have any used vehicles for sale or they were too old for what they wanted at Kincsem Park. I contacted race tracks and found a couple of used starting gates, but again, too old for what they wanted."
Then Wolf went to Mike Woebkenberg of Superior Sulky in Farmerville, Ohio. Mike and Steve had never met before, but through talking on the phone, had become friends.
"I realized that Steve really wanted to help find a starting gate for the people at Kincsem Park," Woebkenberg said. "And I wanted to help him, so we looked into building a new one, but that became too costly with shipping and import taxes. We tried all sorts of scenarios and then I said to myself, why not sell them the main starting gate I use at the Little Brown Jug and other tracks and just build a new one for myself."
After working out a price, a deal was reached between Woebkenberg, Wolf and Kovács that was acceptable to Kincsem Park management. But then came the paperwork for the Ford F-150 starting gate.
"I thought at first that this would be an easy purchase agreement," Wolf said. "Then came an 18-page bidding form in Hungarian! It took some time as Google translate was not as helpful, but Petronella worked with me and soon enough I had it done. I nicknamed her my "Job Angel" and Mike also was a major help as we had to include all dimensions of the truck and the starting gate mechanisms in kilometers, etc."
Because Kincsem Park is owned and run by the Department of Agriculture in Hungary, bids must be done for all major machinery purchases. So next came the waiting game for Wolf to see how the bidding would go. It was early July when the adventure first started and then on Oct. 13, Wolf received via email a document from the Hungarian government with an official seal on it.
"I thought at first it was the official notice that my bid was successfully submitted," Wolf said. "So, I forwarded it to Petronella and she got back to me and said ‘Congratulations Steve, your bid is the winning one,' and I was ecstatic about it."
Of course, more work remained. Arrangements were made to have the starting gate shipped from Ohio to an East Coast port, then across the Atlantic to a port in Europe, and then to have the vehicle transported to Budapest, which is totally landlocked from any major shipping port by hundreds of miles.
"I had done pricing on all facets needed to get the starting gate to Budapest for the bidding contract," Wolf said. "And now I was able to negotiate final deals with the different transport companies."
So, Woebkenberg began preparing the truck for a long trip to Europe.
"I had the truck totally detailed," Woebkenberg said. "New tires and an extra new spare, new brakes, extra spare parts and prepared the truck for being in a container for a while and how the salt air could affect it. I also wrote out instructions for basic repairs and maintenance for the truck and starting gate and made sure that the company folded in the big side-view mirrors in order for it to fit inside the container."
The starting gate was then transported from Farmerville, Ohio to the port in Jersey City, N.J., then shipped to the port at Bremerhaven, Germany and transported 740 miles to Budapest, Hungary.
"I had all the information," Wolf said. "The name of the ship, the route it was going to take, when it might arrive, but still I was nervous waiting for it to finally arrive in Germany. I even learned how to track a vessel at sea provided it passed near some of the tracking stations across the Atlantic.
"And then I got an email on Monday, Jan. 22, from my customs agent that the ship had docked the night before," Wolf added, laughing. "So, my worries about the starting gate sinking were over with!"
"I did not think it would take so long," Kovács said. "With the truck coming from America, it is not the closest or the easiest way to Hungary. A good job takes time.
"My colleagues and I were so excited when I got the message on my phone that the truck had arrived. I finally felt calm and secure. Everyone was so excited and could not wait to see the truck at work." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)