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Climbing the Hill is a Yearly Tradition

LAUREL RUN — Drivers came to Laurel Run to slay the Giants Despair in Luzerne County.

Volunteer fire departments raise their money from bake sales, bingo games, and even barbecues.

The Laurel Run Fire Department in Luzerne County started a different tradition that began back in 1906.

It’s called the Giants Despair Hillclimb where drivers see who can power their cars up a steep hill in the fastest time.

At the bottom of the hill in Laurel Run, drivers tuned their cars to get ready for the race up hill.

“You race against yourself.”

John Edward Stinsman has been racing at Giants Despair in Luzerne County since the 1970`s.

“And every year, you write down your time, and you hope you get better,” said Stinsman.

Stinsman said racing in the 108 year old contest that raises money for Laurel Run’s Fire Department is a passion for every driver, and for every fan of the racers, and their cars.

“Some of them are really old, and I like seeing old cars and some of them are cool and fast,” said Ryan Cimakosky, Mountaintop.

Drivers speed a mile up the steep hill with some twists and turns including white knuckle hairpin turn known as the ‘Devils Elbow’ where fans gather to see where the race becomes a test of nerves.

“It’s to see who can make it through ‘the elbow’ to see who brakes and who doesn’t brake,” said Mary Wicht, Swoyersville.

“You can’t see the next turn.  You see the turn you’re going to go into, but you can’t see the one above that,” said Stinsman.

At age 74, Stinsman is a steady old hand who wants to finish in a time faster than last year, or the year before but he’ll only push himself and his car so far.

“At my age, I’d rather live a few more days, than actually take home a trophy,” said Stinsman.

Some of the legendary drivers who’ve taken on Giants Despair, and made the turn at ‘Devil’s Elbow’ include racer Carroll Shelby, and a current NASCAR ace team owner Roger Penske.

Giants Despair is one of the oldest continuing motor racing event in Luzerne County and in the world.

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