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Stories from the valley

Glenn County Thunder

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Few people know all that Glenn County has to offer. For most, their only experience is seeing signs to Willows and Orland about two hours north of Sacramento as they jet towards Oregon. I suggest you stop and enjoy this special part of the Sacramento Valley.

Located about six miles west of Willows on Hwy 162, Thunderhill Raceway is a place I visit on a regular basis.  The racetrack and the facilities were opened in 1993 and many improvements have been made over the years.  The facility is a tax-paying corporation owned by the San Francisco Region, Sports Car Club of America.  The best description of the operation is in its recent annual report, “Thunderhill serves the recreational market for men and women who come to play with their motorized toys.”

THill 1

The reason for my visit recently was the Northern California Region of the Shelby American Automobile Club was holding time trials there. Lots of great Mustangs at event, but my 2015 Mustang was the only one with a My Job Depends on Ag decal and license plates that say FERTLZR.


I had the opportunity to visit with David Vodden, President and CEO of the park.  He is a great promoter of the park and very involved with activities in Willows including Rotary.  Dave explained that the track was built on land that had been deemed marginal agriculture land by Glenn County and now pays significant property taxes.  Also its participants fill the hotel rooms and eat at the restaurants in town, which builds the tax base.

THill 3

The communities and counties of the Sacramento Valley will continue to face opportunities and challenges regarding the use of agricultural land for other uses.  In my opinion Thunderhill, when it was built, is a great use of land that was not suitable for ag production.

As I was leaving I stopped at the Pro Shop to check apparel and mentioned that I was doing a blog for Sacramento Valley Water.  The lady working in the shop was a regular reader of the Sacramento Valley Water and California Rice Commission Facebook pages.  Her name was Nancy Menezes and she and her husband are rice farmers in Willows.  No matter where you go in the Valley, there’s always a connection to agriculture.