LOUDON — Midway through the dirt road that cuts across New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s S6 RV camper lot, passersby will find themselves confronted with large day glow yellow sign bearing the words “SOBRIETY CHECKPOINT.”
In spite of the official appearance, there are no police officers or state troopers to be found behind this sternly-written placard. Instead, visitors will find themselves face-to-face with Kevin Sgro of North Berwick, Maine, standing behind a fully stocked bar and inviting those of legal drinking age to have a seat and join him for one of his homemade cocktails.
“It’s my way of trying to grab peoples’ attention,” said Kevin Sgro, a longtime fixture of NHMS race weekend who’s spent the last two decades building what he considers to be a second family out of his S6 friends and neighbors.
“A bunch of random people always stop in to see what’s going on, and I don’t mind that at all. That’s why I bring all this stuff,” said Kevin Sgro, pointing to a decked out RV lot that includes a performance stage, professional DJ equipment and a camp kitchen that boasts a large griddle, two smokers, a deep fryer and a gas powered pizza oven.
“You drive around and you see people sitting at their camp sites, playing on their phones or reading a book, and I’m thinking ‘You could do that at home!’ Go find something to do! We make it so people have something to do. Bring a chair up, have a sit-down on the grass and listen to the radio with us at night, have a seat at the bar or bring your own beer and just relax,” he said.
Kevin Sgro’s impromptu family of fellow NHMS campers made headlines last year when they came together to organize a wedding for he and his longtime girlfriend Allie Wilson (now Allie Sgro), with the newlyweds getting to exchange their vows on the same S6 lot where they’ve spent so may vacations together.
This year, as the couple rang in the first anniversary of their trackside marriage, the annual residents of this community had a new reason to celebrate: the high school graduation and full-ride Franklin Pierce University scholarships of Samantha Norwood, the Sgros’ daughter, and her boyfriend of three years Hunter Brown.
“This has been a place that I’ve kind of grown up in,” said Norwood of the campsite.
“I realized that everybody that I would have invited to any graduation party was already here, so it seemed fitting that this is where I’d like to celebrate this big milestone in my life. My parents got married here last year, I’m celebrating graduation this year and it kind of makes me look forward to the future and the next big event that’s going to happen in this place.”
As impressive as the all-star tailgating setup that the Sgros spend their speedway summers in is, Norwood said she still remembers the coming to the race as a young girl with little more than a single small camper and two bunk bed setups that slept Norwood, her brother Brennan, Kevin and Allie.
But to ask any member of the Sgro family, the glitzy camping gear only came to be because of the close bonds built between the people who call the grassy lot home for a few days in July every calendar year.
“It didn’t start this way, but now we come here for our family — for our NASCAR family,” said Allie Sgro. “It’s like what I said throughout our whole wedding: our ceremony wasn’t about our blood family, it was about our NASCAR family.”
Undeterred by the steamy temperatures that lingered long after sunset, on Friday night the inhabitants of the S6 neighborhood threw on masks, capes and all manner of creative apparel for a costume party that had been planned weeks ahead of time on the community’s 169-member Facebook group.
After being treated to a hearty spread of Kevin Sgro’s smoked chicken, attendees grooved the night away on a dance floor overlooking the speedway grandstands where all would cluster over the coming days to cheer on their favorite drivers.
“I’d say for at least 60 percent of these camp sites, we can just walk over, plop down in a chair if it’s empty and sit down to talk a bit,” said Jeff Ferguson of Campton when asked what the yearly gathering at the speedway means to him.
Remarking on what he sees as the loss of a sense of community among many real life neighborhoods, Ferguson said what the S6 inhabitants have built around their shared love of NASCAR is a callback to bygone era when neighbors knew and trusted one another.
“People look out for each other here,” said Ferguson.
“My camper is sitting over there unlocked. Am I worried about it? No. There’s people watching it that I trust. It’s a comfort level here. It’s people you go to, you hang with, you talk to, you hug goodbye at the end of the week and you know you’ll see again next year. It’s not just familiarity, but it’s a family.”