‘The Lap’ makes a comeback in Ferdinand

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Dozens of cars drive the Ferdinand Lap on Friday. Ferdinand residents brought back the once popular pastime for the fourth week in a row as a way to interact with their friends and neighbors while still practicing social distancing.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — A new generation looped into an old Ferdinand tradition this month with the revival of the Ferdinand Lap.

The Lap was a popular weekend evening activity for teenagers who drove their cars from Forest Park Junior-Senior High School, down Main Street to Fourth Street, where they turned around and headed back to the high school to make another lap. During the drive, they met up with friends, stopped in parking lots and figured out what else to do with the evening. The activity died out in the late 1990s, but 1998 Forest Park graduate Amy Hawkins of Ferdinand brought it back at the beginning of April as a way for people to connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She got the idea to bring it back while working out in her yard one evening. She lives close to Main Street, and the sound of revving engines brought back memories of The Lap from her high school days. She posted on Facebook asking if her friends remembered the pastime, and someone suggested they bring it back. The next weekend, about 30 people were out driving the old route again on Friday evening. The next weekend, they were out again, and the informal gathering was reborn.

For the past four Fridays, residents of Ferdinand and out-of-town visitors have clogged the streets of The Lap as people who drove The Lap in high school revive the activity and share it with their families. As they pass people they know, they honk their horns and call greetings from their car windows.

“It’s just fun to see all the smiles, the waves and the honks,” Hawkins said.

Joe Ketzner of Ferdinand waves to another driver as dozens of cars drive the Ferdinand Lap on Friday. Ferdinand residents brought back the once popular pastime for the fourth week in a row as a way to interact with their friends and neighbors while still practicing social distancing.

Hawkins brought her two daughters — Aleigha, 13, and Kinley, 10 — along each weekend, and they’re already talking about driving The Lap with their friends when they’re in high school.

Since The Lap revived, it’s been hugely popular. Two weeks ago, The Lap had traffic on Main Street backed up to Interstate 64. Friday, there weren’t quite that many people, but cars still lined the edge of Main Street waiting to turn back toward Forest Park.

“It’s crazy,” said Rachel Beck, a 1995 Forest Park graduate. “I feel terrible for the people who live along The Lap.”

Beck drove The Lap when she was in high school. When it started back up again, she took her son, Forest Park senior Zach Hopf.

“He looks forward to it,” Beck said. “He gets to see some of his friends that are doing it, and some of the teachers he’s been missing.”

Hopf is the third generation in his family to drive The Lap. Beck’s father, Mark Beck, also drove The Lap when he was in high school.

There is one big difference between The Lap in the ’90s and today’s version — size. One weekend, Hawkins figures about 100 cars participated, way more than when she was in high school. The influx of participation is likely due to the Ferdinand Lap Facebook group that Lauren May, 23, made as a way for people to interact off the roads and share stories about The Lap. As of May 1, the group had almost 400 members.

Drivers wave to each other as dozens of cars drive the Ferdinand Lap on Friday. Ferdinand residents brought back the once popular pastime for the fourth week in a row as a way to interact with their friends and neighbors while still practicing social distancing.

By the time May was a student at Forest Park, The Lap had died out, but she remembers her parents telling her about doing it when they were in school.

“It’s cool, because now we get to live it and experience it rather than just hearing about it,” she said.

May describes herself as a bit of a history buff, so seeing The Lap come back to life is a bit like looking back through time to a period when people seemed to have taken more joy in the little things.

“Kids these days are out going to parties or going to other cities, but back then, they would just drive around town for fun,” she said. “It’s so simple, but so cool.”

Of course, due to social distancing guidelines, the parking lot tailgates that used to accompany The Lap are on hold, save for a few people who park to watch The Lap, leaving a few empty parking spaces between them and neighboring vehicles. But maybe that part will come back, too, once social distancing guidelines are lifted. It’s possible, Hawkins said. The revival has already grown beyond anything she expected.

“I thought it would be a one time thing,” Hawkins said. “I never expected it to be this big.”

The Lap will continue at 7 p.m. ET on Fridays.




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