(May 2021) – Madison, Ind., area residents and hydroplane racing fans have waited and wondered for months if the Madison Regatta would return in 2021 after having been canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the entire H1 Unlimited Series. The answer became clear April 8 when Regatta President Greg Thorpe announced the race would return in the wake of two significant donations by the Jefferson County Board of Tourism (JCBT) and the City of Madison.
Both the tourism board and the city provided $50,000 each to the Regatta Committee to help reach its fundraising goal of $563,000 needed to put on the race and festival. The JCBT also provided an additional $10.000 for use in marketing and to be managed and executed by VisitMadison Inc. Nucor Madison’s $30,000 also helped, becoming the largest corporate sponsor to date.
Madison Regatta President Greg Thorpe (far right) receives a check from Madison Mayor Bob Courtney and City Councilman Curtis Chatham.
The tourism board’s decision to fund Regatta came at a special meeting on April 1 to consider the request. Regatta officials initially requested $75,000 from the board in late March, but in the wake of several months of tightly controlling expenditures for tourism due to the impacts on innkeepers’ taxes by the coronavirus pandemic, the board settled on a sum of $50,000 with the knowledge it would be matched by the city.
Fundraising continues as the Regatta Committee works to play host to the sport’s prestigious APBA Gold Cup for the second time in three years. Miss Madison driver Jimmy Shane won the Gold Cup two years ago for the hometown boat’s fans. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of driver Jim McCormick’s historic victory in the 1971 Gold Cup race, held in Madison.
The Cinderella victory was the subject of the 2001 movie “Madison.”
This year’s Madison Regatta is planned for July 2-4 and is considered the 71st year for the event, even though there was no race in two of those years – 2013 and 2020. It will include the Grand Prix America boat races as well as the Roostertail Music Festival, entering its third year.
“The board and I are excited to be able to bring the Madison Regatta event to our beautiful riverfront this year considering the hard year we all had,” Thorpe said in a release. “This will be great for our community as well as the many loyal race fans. We are eternally grateful for the financial support of the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, City of Madison and Visit Madison Inc., as well as our presenting sponsor Nucor Madison, among countless others.”
Dean Rojas, president of GPA, said, “It’s pure excitement for us at Grand Prix America to be a part of the Madison Regatta and all its historical glory. We look forward to getting back on the water in Madison, Indiana.”
Madison Mayor Bob Courtney added, “It is ironic that we find ourselves in a similar situation as Mayor Don Vaughn was in 50 years ago searching for ways to bring the Regatta to the City of Madison. The Madison Regatta is an iconic event with deep community roots, but even more so, it is an economic driver for the community’s tourism economy, and we found it very compelling to work with the Regatta Board and its volunteers to join with the Jefferson County Board of Tourism to financially support the event this year.”
Lucy Dattilo, VisitMadison Inc.’s board president, said, “The VMI Board of Directors are happy to support our tourism partners, JCBT and the Madison Regatta. VMI recognizes assistance will be difficult. We are understaffed, and this will be a huge challenge for VMI’s marketing director, Sarah Prasil. This task was handed to VMI very late in the game. April has been used to develop a marketing plan with heavy execution to follow in May and June. Even with budget and time constraints, we look forward to a great week of activity, an excellent event and hosting visitors and locals Fourth of July weekend.”
VMI went from nine staff members before COVID-19 in 2020 and now has four staff members, not including Executive Director Tawana Thomas, who is still on a layoff.
During the April 1 JCBT meeting, Thorpe said he hoped the committee would not rely on such grants in 2022. “Next year, hopefully we’ll be back on track (with sponsorships). That’s why were reaching out for help from tourism and the city for extra help this year.” He said sponsorships are about 25 percent of where they should be in a normal year. Thorps also said the Regatta in 2019 “brought in about $527,000 in income with expenses at about $563,000,” but part of that was paying off the last of some old debt. He said 2019 was the last year of past years’ debt reduction for the event.
To help produce more income his year, the Regatta has doubled its admission prices — from $25 to $50, although the price is less if purchased before June 27.
Asked by the JCBT board what items the Regatta had canceled this year during the weeklong festival, Thorpe replied, “We’ve not canceled anything, but we have to be careful about what we say we’re capable of doing and what we’re actually capable of doing. If we don’t hit 100 percent of the budget, the board is looking at cost reductions ideas.”
Thorpe told the board that the Regatta committee expects 15 Grand Prix boats to compete and eight to 10 Unlimited boats. The Miss Madison team could potentially race two boats. Madison is second on the pandemic-shortened H1 Unlimited race schedule, following the Guntersville, Ala., race on June 26-27. Two additional race weekends after Madison are listed on the H1 Unlimited website as “tentative” – the Harpo Columbia Cup on July 23-25 and the San Diego Bayfair on Sept. 17-19. The Seattle Seafair has been postponed until 2022.
Meantime, the Roostertail Music Festival is scheduled to begin Friday night at Bicentennial Park after the annual Regatta/City of Madison Parade on Main Street. Saturday will also boast an evening filled with music. The lineup for Roostertail was released in mid April. It features several local and out-of-town performers. The list includes The Steel Woods, The Commonheart, Alex Williams, The Wooks, Eric Bolander and locals Jimmy Davis and Jordan Wilson.
The Regatta Festival features a weeklong series of events, leading up to the Regatta races on the weekend. These include pageants, a fire station water ball fight, 10K run and walk, parade and fireworks display. Visitors can also enjoy vintage hydroplane boats displayed by the National Boat Racing Heritage Center of Madison.
Tickets are now available for purchase online. This year’s general admission ticket will gain admittance in both the Madison Regatta and Roostertail Music Festival. Through April 30, general admission tickets are $30; from May 1 through June 26, tickets are $40; and beginning June 27, tickets are $50 and will only be available at selected locations and/or the gate. For more information about the event visit www.MadisonRegatta.com.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at info@RoundAbout.bz.
Back to May 2021 Articles.