The Great Race is coming.
And city officials are expecting big crowds downtown to greet it.
About 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 115 vintage vehicles ranging from a 1916 Hudson Hill Climber and a 1916 Hudson Speedster to a 1974 Peterbilt 359 and a 1974 Plymouth Bluesmobile will begin rolling into downtown Owensboro on a 2,300-mile road rally from San Antonio to Greenville, South Carolina.
Tim Ross, the city’s public events director, said opening ceremonies will begin at 4:45 p.m. in McConnell Plaza, across Veterans Boulevard from the Hampton Inn & Suites.
Cars should start rolling in every couple of minutes for the next hour and 45 minutes, he said.
They will park along Veterans Boulevard, so people can look at them and take pictures, Ross said.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” he said.
The Fabulous Rodenberg Boys, an Evansville jazz and blues band, will be playing on the outdoor stage at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
Food and beverage vendors will be located in the area too.
Ross said Owensboro Community & Technical College will have a car on display.
And the Owensboro HydroFair will have two boats on display.
Randy Lientz, HydroFair race director, said drivers Buddy Benedict and Dennis Wright, both from Posey County, Indiana, will bring their S-class boats to McConnell Plaza.
S-class boats have to be a minimum of 13-feet long and weigh a minimum of 975 pounds.
“It’s a festival with food,” Ross said. “Everything is free but the food.”
500 expectedHe said, “Each car has a driver and navigator. And each car has a support team. With race officials and all, we’re expecting 500 people from The Great Race to be in town Wednesday night.”
Ross said, “We’ve had calls from as far away as Michigan from people who are planning to be here to see the cars. Several car clubs have said they plan to come. It’s perfect timing” with the pandemic restrictions being lifted.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “The Great Race is a big deal, and it will produce a significant economic impact. The city wins, Daviess County wins, Kentucky wins and our local businesses win. We all benefit when national events come to our city.”
He said, “These can’t-miss events add to a great quality of life for people living in Owensboro and Daviess County. I cannot think of another community of our size that attracts national events like the Great Race, an airshow bringing in the Blue Angels, world class hydroplane racing and ROMP. All in one year.”
The cars were scheduled to leave San Antonio at 8 a.m. Saturday.
They’re scheduled to spend Tuesday night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, stop for lunch in Paducah on Wednesday and then head to Owensboro.
They will leave Thursday morning on their way to Elizabethtown for lunch and Lexington to spend the night.
The race with historic vehicles began in 1983, focusing on endurance and accuracy than high speeds.
It’s based on a 1908 race that ran from New York to Alaska, Japan and on to Paris.
The racers are competing for $150,000 in prize money.