Power boats year two

City council calls weekend event a success

OBSERVER Photo by Ronald Szot A firm with a drone is expected to provide Dunkirk city officials with an estimate of how many people came to this year’s professional boat race last weekend.

The Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix was a point of pride discussed at the city of Dunkirk’s Common Council meeting on Tuesday. Many accolades were given to police and fire groups from throughout Chautauqua County, Dunkirk’s DPW, festivals and special events staff and volunteers by city officials and citizens alike.

The event cost roughly $200,000 to put on, with over $100,000 of that coming from the I Love New York campaign.

“This event cost us over $100,000 and the taxpayers did not have to put one penny of that in to bring these boats here to the city,” Mayor Wilfred Rosas stated. “This event was recognized by the I Love New York campaign and they want to again, do it next year.”

The race is only in its second year and Third Ward Councilman Shaun Heenan felt that as the city moves forward with this event, hopefully past the year 2020, that a few changes might be best to implement.

“Looking to build on this, some of my suggestions to increase our attendance here include hiring a professional marketing company that specializes in this type of event, to market a $200,000 event we need more help. It’s much more than any one person can handle,” Heenan pointed out. “Again this is my opinion, but I think that it’d be very important that we try to find another day for this event. Our neighboring county, Erie County, has their fair every year on that weekend and it’s one of the top five county fairs in the country. The last five years they’ve had over 1.2 million people in attendance with this past year being record setting, it’s 12 days and it overlaps with what we do.”

Heenan also took time to point out another boat race in the nation that is in its 11th year, the Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Indiana, located an hour’s drive from Chicago. This event gathers roughly 135,000-150,000 spectators every year over a four-day period, and more than 50 racing teams; their event is handled by LaPorte County however, not the city itself.

“I Love New York gave us over $100,000 for marketing. We do have a professional marketing, it may not be specific to us however,” Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Civiletto responded to Heenan’s comments. “Another thing that was mentioned was how the county for Michigan City stepped up and helped with their race. I don’t believe, in my opinion, our county stepped up as much as they could have, but I do thank them for what they did do. I know last year was like pulling teeth to get the county to support us in that regard.”

Civiletto also was curious as to why these suggestions are being made now and had not been made in various meetings in the last two years. “These suggestions that were made, I don’t know where they were a year ago,” Civiletto questioned. “We know that the Erie County Fair is the same weekend every year. We’ve done this twice now, and those comments weren’t made. I’m trying to understand where those comments are coming from after the fact.”

Despite the discussion all members agreed that it was a good event all around, according to Heenan and Rosas as well as other municipal officials the boaters really liked coming here.

“We had more boats this year, then we did last year,” Rosas told the OBSERVER following the meeting. “I think the weather put off some people, but for the most part the racers, all of them said they definitely want to come back next year.”

The number of actual competitors this year was a confusing one. According to OBSERVER coverage it was believed to have been eight boats. That number is also posted on offshoreonly.com, a website that follows these events. However, when asked about the number of boats in attendance the mayor said “I believe I was told 21. Some boats didn’t get in until late Saturday, one didn’t come in until almost 1 a.m., some of them came in Sunday morning, so 21 total boats in different classes.”

The mayor also talked of a firm that comes in with drones that have mechanisms to count all the bodies along the shore line. He and others are looking forward to those numbers when they come in.