A documentary about the Norwood Arena Speedway is in production, thanks to two local residents.
The feature-length film, touted as the untold story of the Norwood Arena Speedway has become a labor of love for Jerry Kelleher and Brendan King. It came about after Kelleher was looking for some subjects for short documentaries for Norwood Cable and it quickly grew into something so much more.
Today, they are working on the finishing touches of “Norwood Arena … The Movie” to educate audiences about the history of something for many is long forgotten - the Norwood Speedway. Formally known as “the Little Daytona,” the track played a prominent role not only in Norwood’s history, but also in the foundation and growth of today’s auto racing industry. The film also tells the stories and captures the memories of former racers who got their start at the arena.
The film introduces viewers to several former racers, including one who lived his dream and the other who died trying after leaving Norwood for the national spotlight. Pete Hamilton got his start at the Norwood Arena and won the Daytona 500 in 1970, and Don MacTavish, died on that same track live on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
Kelleher said his research into the arena turned into a web of people referring him to other people as the project kept growing.
“As I talked to people, one thing led to another,” Kelleher said. “I talked to family members of drivers, as well as drivers in their own right who did a lot of cool things.”
You can view the trailer for the movie on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bdp694zSMuY
The quarter-mile oval track was located at Vanderbilt Avenue which today functions as an industrial park. From 1948 to 1972, the Norwood Arena was a large draw for the town and communities throughout the state. Serving as a large recreation center, it was a multi purpose stadium that hosted everything from demolition derbies, to concerts, to stock car races and drag races. According to Kelleher, it was the biggest venue around and would hold 15,000 spectators on a Saturday night.
Kelleher said it was very exciting uncovering so much history while researching Norwood Arena.
It played such a paramount role in today’s world of racing, Kelleher said. “I knew there was a track there when I was a little kid, but the fact these guys went on to such success and it was so big and so well known is amazing. The guys themselves are such interesting characters.”
Several factors led to the closing of the area in 1972, including the town’s growth, neighbors being annoyed by the sounds of drag racing, the economy and the land’s value.
Kelleher and King are also busy promoting the film. The duo has an exact replica of the Norwood Arena Pace car, a 1967 Dodge Coronet, which they recently displayed at a car show in Pennsylvania.
The movie is set to premiere for one night only on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. at the Norwood Theatre. It will be a red carpet event with everything from a souvenir playbill, to program book and swag for ticket holders. Tickets are currently on sale at the Norwood Theatre Box Office. Kelleher says tickets are selling quickly, which is a testament to what the film means to locals.
And Kelleher and King don’t plan to stop there. The movie is being entered into a few film festivals, so someday soon Norwood Arena: The Movie may be playing at a theater near you.
Tickets for the movie’s premiere can be purchased through the theatre’s website at http://norwoodstage.com, by calling 781-551-9000 or visiting the box office Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and noon and 3-5 p.m.