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Saturday October 20, 2018

possible record attendance at grand prix

Monday, August 06, 2018 17:20 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

Power boat racing along Michigan City's lakefront and other related events could have exceeded last year's attendance record of more than 150,000.

Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said turn out for all of the weekend festivities during the 10th annual Great Lakes Grand Prix is just beginning the extensive process of being tallied.

However, early indications are ''we blew it off the roof. We really nailed it this year,'' Arnett said.

He said more people on shuttle buses and parking lots at Washington Park filling up sooner for Saturday's time trials and races Sunday indicate record numbers.

Turnout for Saturday's boat parade downtown also seemed noticeably higher, he said.

''They were just packed 10, 15 people deep. 20 deep all along that route,'' Arnett said.

One of the racers, Wayne Valder, came from New Zealand.

Valder has won championships in other circuits where he lives and in Australia but after 30-years of racing now wants one in the U.S.

He's presently 2nd in the Super Boat International standings with two races both in Florida left in the season.

''The secret to any of these courses is get to the optimum speed as fast as you can. If you get to that optimum speed as fast as you can you're pretty hard to catch,'' Valder said.

Joe Benoit from Homewood, Illinois came with his wife and four children along with more than a dozen other family members.

''I'm glad I'm here. I like the boats. I like the people here. The girls in bathing suits. Everything,'' he said.

It'll be several weeks before official attendance figures are presented by Certec, Inc., a marketing analysis group out of Lexington, Kentucky.

The firm is paid annually by the LCCVB to estimate head count and economic impact from the race.

Last year, the firm reported $10.7 million because of the race was spent locally breaking the mark set in 2016 by about $1.1 million.

Arnett said a majority of the revenue is from hotel bookings by people from Chicago and other places outside the immediate area.

Two of the 30 or so boats competing in the Sunday races flipped in separate incidents.

There were no injuries.

Jeff Hamilton, director of the LaPorte County Hazardous Materials Team, said about 100 gallons of fuel was lost from one of the boats.

Not much, if any, leaked from the other watercraft.

He said there was no need for a clean-up because racing fuel is such high octane it evaporates in the water from the sun ''fairly quickly.''

The fuel remaining in the tanks was pumped out once the vessels were towed back into Trail Creek, Hamilton said.
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