Shriner Go-Karts: Unsafe At Any Size

4 people were injured when a large older man in a fez lost control of his tiny ’57 Chevy Bel-Air at a Fourth of July parade.

Okay, I’m making the assumption that the car was driven by a large older man in a fez, based on my vast experience with Shriners (my brother-in-law Frank is a member) and the headgear they wear at public events (I happen to know that lady Shriners have white fezzes, and have special travel cases for them when going to conventions).

Medinah Temple owns a golf resort in the area, but I don’t know if the membership consists mostly of older men – that’s the pattern I’m used to seeing from my days as a Job’s Daughter in Utah decades ago, where the local temple was called “El Kalah.”

Shriner loses control of go-kart, 4 paradegoers hurt — chicagotribune.com

Four spectators including two children were injured Friday after being struck by an out-of-control go-kart during a 4th of July parade in north suburban Niles.

Niles Police Sgt. Vince Genualdi said a 9-year-old girl watching the parade from the curb was struck by a go-kart decorated to look like a ’57 Chevy and driven by an unidentified Medinah Shriner.

The car then turned and struck three more spectators—a 64-year-old woman, 33-year-old man and 9-year-old girl—before landing in nearby shrubbery with the woman still on the hood of the vehicle, Genualdi said.

That’s too bad about the injuries, and I’m sure the gentleman driver feels just awful. Shriners are all about caring for kids and supporting the Shriners’ orthopedic hospitals and burn units, and I will bet you that everyone will get their medical care taken care of gratis. I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Salt Lake Shriners’ Hospital when I was a teenager, and had some unforgettable experiences working with some of the kids.

It sounds like the little car had a stuck accelerator, or maybe the steering went out and the driver had trouble with the controls.

On a recent trip to southern Illinois, we noticed a couple of vanloads of Shriners who stopped at the restaurant where we were eating breakfast – a typical highway interchange chain place called “Bob Evans.” How did we know they were Shriners? They weren’t wearing fezzes, but both vans had gaudy graphics on the side announcing the names of the temples, with the Shriner sword-and-crescent logo, from two different towns in nearby Southern states. So there must have been a Shriner convention going on somewhere, drawing grand poobahs from all over the region.

No little go-karts were in evidence, however.

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7 thoughts on “Shriner Go-Karts: Unsafe At Any Size

  1. It’s an unfortunate accident. Now, Imperial, the headquarters for the Shriners, will probably put out a notice that Shriners will no longer be able to drive that type vehicle in a parade. El Kalah has Flying Carpets that are fun; Mini Bikes; Klunkers. If Imperial does close the motorized units down, that will really cause more havoc with membership!

  2. Sounds like you have an ax to grind with the Shriners to me…

    Before you go spouting off about “unsafe at any size”, you really needed to do some research and see that, while horses in parades caused six fatalities last year, there were no fatalities reported from any mishaps involving go carts operated by any Shrine Temple in the United States.

    The Shriners contribute over two million dollars a day to care of children in their orthopedic hospitals and burn treatment centers.

    Their contributions to society do not deserve the unflattering remarks you have bestowed on them.

  3. What ax? I like the Shriners and am related to one, and mentioned that I’d volunteered at a Shriners’ hospital. If the incident had resulted in a fatality, I probably wouldn’t have made the joke in the title (referencing Ralph Nader’s famous “Unsafe At Any Speed” book about the Ford Corvair and other vehicles). And of course I noted that the Shriners would make it right for everyone needing medical care. They’re good people.

    Unflattering? What’s not to like about a tiny car with a big guy in a fez behind the wheel? I know the kinds of guys that do this stuff, and as my sister Timmy points out, it will be a shame if the national or state organizations ban the “gadget” parade vehicles because of insurance liability.

    It can be difficult to discern between affectionate humor and dismissive scorn on the Internet; as it was I had toned down the jokes I could have made because people had been hurt and frightened.

  4. It’s the same as any vehicle really. It’s only as safe as the operator if properly maintained.

    I just so happen to be the VP of the El Kalah Wreckers. We are the go-kart unit of the El Kalah Shrine in Salt Lake City, Utah. (we prefer to call them “Flying Carpets” actually.) It was a lifelong goal of mine to become a Shriner, and to drive a kart. One of my first orders of business was to physically inspect every kart in out inventory for damage, wear, etc. And secondly, to assess the ability of each Noble within the unit, to drive a kart.

    There have been a couple of mishaps over the years, but no injuries, or property damage has ever occurred as far as I can tell. The Wreckers, and other mini-car/go-kart units across the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, are one of the most recognizable things about the shrine next to the Fez, and the hospitals, and are a great PR tool. We help the Shrine raise tens of millions of dollars to fund our network of hospitals. Doing away with units like ours seriously hamper our effort to do so, and in effect, take away from the kids that we are trying to help.

    We believe that safety is the most important thing at parades. We do the Shrine a great dis-service otherwise. I cannot speak for every kart unit, but I think that for the most part, they feel the same way.

    I do appreciate the discussion though!

    Brian Crowder
    Vice Presdent- Wreckers
    El Kalah Shrine of Utah

  5. It’s the same as any vehicle really. It’s only as safe as the operator if properly maintained.

    I just so happen to be the VP of the El Kalah Wreckers. We are the go-kart unit of the El Kalah Shrine in Salt Lake City, Utah. (we prefer to call them “Flying Carpets” actually.) It was a lifelong goal of mine to become a Shriner, and to drive a kart. One of my first orders of business was to physically inspect every kart in out inventory for damage, wear, etc. And secondly, to assess the ability of each Noble within the unit, to drive a kart.

    There have been a couple of mishaps over the years, but no injuries, or property damage has ever occurred as far as I can tell. The Wreckers, and other mini-car/go-kart units across the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, are one of the most recognizable things about the shrine next to the Fez, and the hospitals, and are a great PR tool. We help the Shrine raise tens of millions of dollars to fund our network of hospitals. Doing away with units like ours seriously hamper our effort to do so, and in effect, take away from the kids that we are trying to help.

    We believe that safety is the most important thing at parades. We do the Shrine a great dis-service otherwise. I cannot speak for every kart unit, but I think that for the most part, they feel the same way.

    I do appreciate the discussion though!

    Brian Crowder
    Vice Preisdent- Wreckers
    El Kalah Shrine of Utah

  6. No problem, Brian… you must know my brother-in-law Frank, then (and his wife is known as “Marcia” amongst polite company, it’s only in the family that she’s “Timmy).

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