The Mendocino Racetrack located on the Heeser Ranch, c. 1922. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

In 1921, the Farmers & Apple Growers’ Association constructed an automobile race track on the Heeser Ranch property at the western edge of town. The Association was interested in expanding their annual Apple Fair’s horse racing, rodeo, and sporting events to include the new sport of auto racing.

The attraction featured a three-quarter-mile oval-shaped track and was located on the Mendocino Headlands, extending from about Goat Island to the site of the Mendocino City Community Services District plant today. A grand stand for spectators was located near Heeser Drive on the eastern side of the north-south oriented track.

The October 1921 Apple Fair hosted the first auto races held on the Mendocino Coast, and attendance at the Fair was the largest ever. Auto races quickly became very popular, and additional events were held at the track complex. Hundreds of residents would pay to attend the racing events where Chevrolets, Buicks, and Fords would race around the track to win prize money.

Although we don’t know exactly when the race track closed, we do know why: The crowded bleachers collapsed during a race, and many people were injured. Auggie Heeser closed down the track permanently following the accident.

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