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record attendance believed at grand prix

Monday, August 05, 2019 07:22 AM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News


It's like NASCAR on Lake Michigan but even more so this year from the amount of races and boats exceeding 150 miles per hour more than doubling.

Response in terms of attendance seemed noticeable enough for early predictions of topping last year's record turn out estimated at over 150,000.

''Just from looking around and kind of eye balling things, we're up. We're way up,'' said Jack Arnett, executive director of the La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

80 degree temperatures, sunshine and a refreshing light northerly breeze off the lake were also at work.

The American Power Boat Association out of Eastpointe Mich, replaced Super Boat International from Key West, Fla. as the sanctioning body of the race in Michigan City this year.

The result was powerboat racing Saturday and Sunday by more than 60 racing teams.

Previously, about 30 racing teams competed on Sunday.

Jet ski racing was also new this year.

The jet skiers with the AquaX organization out of London, England raced Saturday and Sunday.

The roar of engines from racing boats throwing water turning corners on the course helps bring back spectators like Paul Palango of Valparaiso and Duane Dixon of Cleveland, Ohio.

''They're loud and fast," said Palango, who came with his wife, Amanda, and some friends.

Dixon said he also enjoys the annual race related events downtown like Taste of Michigan City and boat parade.

He also likes seeing parents and their children at the off shore events and on the beach during the races.

Dixon said he and his wife attended their first power boat race in Key West, Fla. but the last three-years have come here, instead, to watch the action.

''Michigan City is way more family friendly than Key West. Key West is all about a party,'' he said.

It was the fourth consecutive year at the race for Tracy Hertel and his wife, Sandy, from South Bend.

He also relishes the camaraderie among the spectators.

Many of them are under canopies and umbrellas beside each other.

''I've already made friends with neighbors on three sides. It's just an awesome good time,'' Hertel said.

Spectators were as far west as the lighthouse pier and to the east as far as the eye could see.

They were also on a long string of boats anchored just outside the course and in the dune grass behind the beach.

Jenny Schanne came from Maryland to watch her son, Mike McColgan, race for the first time.

She has watched him on TV and social media videos since his career started five-years ago.

''I like Michigan City. I loved the parade yesterday Everybody has been super friendly. With the level of hospitality, you would think you were in the south,'' Schanne said.

It was the 11th Grand Lakes Grand Prix hosted in Michigan City.

Each year, Certec, Inc., a marketing analysis group out of Lexington, Kentucky, estimates attendance at the race and all of the race related events along with the economic impact on the Michigan City area.

It takes several weeks to come up with the estimates.

Arnett said he would not rule out attendance eclipsing 200,000 and last year's record $12.4 million economic impact being shattered.

''We're the top event of the region. There's no doubt about it,'' he said.

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