Parade kicks off weekend of boat races on Lake Erie


OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Dunkirk Public School students march in Friday's parade, opening the second annual Great Lakes Grand Prix.

With only four of the competing boats being able to make it to Friday’s parade, the City of Dunkirk managed a great crowd to kick off the second annual Great Lakes Grand Prix. Talk of the crowd was the worry that the only boats in the competition were the four that appeared in the parade, but have no fear more boats are on their way for today’s festivities.

“There have been races the last two weeks in a row,” said Larry Bleil. “Everybody is beat and boats are beat up. Some boats can’t make it, they got the bottoms on them that are torn up and they just can’t get them ready in time. So there has been a lot of attrition, because of the boat races that’s been happening over the past week. Last year we had 13 boats and we put a heck of a show on with 13 boats. Hopefully we can put a great show on this weekend.”

The parade began a little after 5 p.m. and led right to the pier on Central Avenue.

Mayor Willie Rosas was in the lead vehicle at the parade and was followed by the Race World Offshore vehicle.

Locally, the Dunkirk Cub Scout Pack No. 206 walked in the parade, along with the Northern Chautauqua County Boys & Girls Club, several motorcyclists and many students from Dunkirk Public Schools — with some kids even wearing their football jerseys. After the parade, the crowd made their way to Memorial Park where the M.A.C. Band performed and an army of food trucks were stationed to feed the spectators.

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Members of the Northern Chautauqua County Boys & Girls Club march in Friday's parade.

Today’s action will start bright and early at 9 a.m. when the Race Village opens. Around ten more boats are expected to arrive today to participate in the competition.

“We have an open practice,” Larry Bleil said about Saturday’s action. “We’re going to go out through the cut and into the lake to see what the water conditions are like.”

According to Bleil the best place for spectators will likely be the pier this weekend.

“I like pier,” Bleil stated. “Because the pier you’re going to see a lot of stuff going on. The dive teams are going to be loading up… there’s going to be a lot of activity on the pier.”

Dunkirk proved to be a great location for the races during last year’s event and will continue to be this year.

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Pictured is the Cigarette Hawk, one of the four boats at Friday's parade.

“We just love coming to this town,” stated Bleil. “It’s a great city with a great mayor.”

Rich Dancisin the Director of Race Operations talked about how great a location Dunkirk has been, “Very cooperative and we get everything we need. It seems like everyone around here is very interested in what’s going on. We go to other locations, some of which it almost feels like we’re forcing the issue. Here we’re well accepted.”