In May 21 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Despite Saturday's thunderstorms and Sunday's cold winds, Lake Cumberland Grand Prix by all accounts drew surprisingly large crowds and was a successful inaugural event.
"For a first time event, it was awesome," said Offshore Super Series (OSS) president Ron Polli. "The location, the people, the attitude, just everything - we couldn't be more pleased."
Event organizers' preliminary attendance figures show a surprising amount of land based race goers who visited Race Village, the hub of racing activity located at Halcomb's landing in Russell County.
"Foot traffic was three times what we expected it to be," said event organizer, Hilda Legg. "Our original projection was 4,000 and we had 12,000 fans through the gate at Race Village."
Many visitors travelled from neighboring states including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee to witness the massive offshore boats in action.
Some race fans travelled from as far away as Lafayette, LA, about 800 miles from Lake Cumberland.
Here at home, local race goers were pleased with their first time look into OSS racing.
"It was a wonderful experience," said Jeff Meeks, Russell County resident and father of Little Miss Lake Cumberland Grand Prix Mikenna Meeks. "I hope it will happen year after year."
Pro Am racing on Saturday turned out to be the most competitive of the weekend. In the P2 class, it was a fight to the finish between Typhoon and Unleashed.
"It was a very tight race," said winning throttle man, Vincent Simon of Team Unleashed Racing. "We were on Typhoon side by side throughout the race. It was real good, old fashioned racing. We had a lot of fun."
Sunday's racing was highlighted by first place going to Fury in the Cat 850 class, AMS Oil in the Cat Lite class, Stihl Offshore Racing in the Cat Outboard class and Under Destruction in the Vee Lite class. Other racers were unopposed and went for season points.
Turbine Extreme class, Miss Geico, wowed the crowds with her nearly silent whir of twin turbo power.
Miss Geico was the only entry in the Turbine Extreme class but this was a special race to the team for a different reason.
Lake Cumberland Grand Prix was dedicated in memory of Miss Geico's throttle man, Scott Begovich's father John Begovich who passed away last week.
"Scotty's mom and dad came to every single race," said Ron Polli. "In fact, he came here, too. Scotty had his dad's remains in the boat with him as they went around the race course."
At the awards ceremony Sunday evening, Scott Begovich was presented with a framed, autographed picture of his dad signed by the OSS group.
Lake Cumberland was dotted with all types of boats to view the action from small fishing boats, cabin cruisers, and cigarette boats to the lake's trade mark, massive house boats.
"I think everyone with a boat came out in spite of the weather," said State Dock president Bill Jasper. "I was very surprised at the number of folks who came for the race."
In Pulaski County, visitation directly attributed to Lake Cumberland Grand Prix was not record setting.
"I have talked to some hotels," said Carolyn Mounce, Executive Director of Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This was not a filled weekend for my hoteliers."
Russell County tourism however, saw a definite increase in the pre-holiday weekend business giving the peak tourism season an early start leading into Memorial Day.
"We were nearly full in rooms and our restaurants were busy," Russell County Tourism Director, John Carter said. "What was really unusual about this is that the camp grounds were full. I've never had that many people ask me about campgrounds."
While not to capacity all weekend, Russell County hoteliers saw a significant increase in business.
A spokesperson for the Cumberland Lodge in Russell Springs said the motel saw about a 50 percent increase in business from the same weekend last year but was not completely full.
At Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, the closest land based lodging to race festivities, business was booming.
"We were virtually full and had good food business," said Lake Cumberland State Resort Park manager, Eddie Moore. "We saw a considerable increase in business at the Lodge on Friday but were not full. On Saturday, we were full and had to turn several folks away."
Just next door, the State Dock rented a record number of boats for what normally is a relatively slow weekend.
"The State Dock did awesome," said Bill Jasper, president of the State Dock and race producer. "We rented about 50 boats and normally that weekend we'd rent about 10 boats."
Other Russell County businesses didn't see an increase in lodging but did benefit from fuel sales on the lake.
"We didn't get any reservations from the race but we did get a lot of boat traffic to buy gas," said James Flatt of Alligator II Marina. "It was a real good thing for Russell County and the lake as a whole."
Race organizers agree the weekend was a successful community event.
"On Behalf of the Lake Cumberland Grand Prix Committee, we are very happy with attendance," said Legg. "We could not have done this without the army of volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the event a reality."