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Bringing Back Thunder

Madison vintage hydro club plans APBA racing event in September

5-to-the-5 Club members
are raising money to stage event

(May 2016) – Vintage hydroplane racing fans are in for a real treat this fall when the inaugural Madison Vintage Thunder races come to the Ohio River in Madison, Ind. Already known for its popular Madison Regatta in early July, the city will play host to this American Power Boat Association-sanctioned weekend event for vintage boats on Sept. 17-18. Admission is free to fans, but donations will be accepted during the weekend event, according to organizer Dave Johnson of Madison.
“We are putting on this free event for the fans, but we would appreciate any financial help from local companies or from the fans,” said Johnson, himself a vintage hydroplane owner and driver. “We plan to ‘pass the hat’ during the race weekend and ask each person to pay $1.”

Photo by Don Ward

Vintage hydro 5-to-the-5 Club members (from left) are Paige Taff, Nick Lobdell and Dave Johnson.

Johnson is among the organizers of a new organization called “5-to-the-5 Vintage Hydro Club” that formed last year as a prelude to playing host to an APBA race event. Other organizers include Rob Holt, Paige Taff and Nick Lobdell. Club status was required by the APBA to hold such an event, Johnson explained. There are no membership dues, but the group has a loose collection of about 30 active participants, he said, plus a 10-member board of directors, headed by chairman Holt. Holt also serves as the Region 6 representative to the APBA, based in Detroit.
The club secured its 501c3 nonprofit status under the Historic Hoosier Hills Resource, Conservation and Development agency, based in Versailles, Ind. That allows the club to solicit donations and apply for grants.
The race event will also be named in honor of former Miss Madison driver Jon Peddie of Madison and vintage hydro owner and driver Billy Cousins of Trimble County. Both men died last year.
Club members expect about 50 vintage hydroplane race boats to participate in the two-day event, which will feature exhibition runs and not actual racing. “We did not want to interfere with the Madison Regatta. We respect the Regatta,” Johnson said.
“So we wanted to have it in the fall, ideally in October when the river is in great condition. But Hanover College’s Homecoming is scheduled for that weekend, and there would be no hotel rooms available. So we were able to get a weekend on the APBA schedule in September.”
To help raise the necessary $25,000 needed to stage the event, the club held its first fundraising event April 16 at The Livery Stable, featuring a local band. “It was packed,” Johnson said. They club sold more than 250 tickets to the event.
The club plans to hold a second fundraiser event May 14 at Johnson’s boat shop at 1002 W. First St. and featuring a local signing group Peanut Brothers and Jam, starring Doug Daugherty, Mike Cardwell and Todd Perry. The club also is selling T-shirts for $15 and souvenir buttons for $5 to help fund the effort.
The club has much work to do to get ready for the race weekend. They already have obtained approval from the city to block off Vaughn Drive between West Street and Broadway that weekend. They are hoping the city also will fence off the pit area. They must also secure three cranes to place the race boats in and out of the river. They must also obtain the necessary insurance and safety crews to work the event, and pay the APBA sanctioning fee. The APBA will provide the inspector, referees and course setup officials.
Johnson owns two vintage race boats, one called the Miss Jean that he plans to drive at the event. Taff is working to get his S-bottom Staudacher-designed race boat ready to drive. Lobdell plans to drive Taff’s other boat. Holt and his son, Trey, are planning to drive their vintage hydro, “Natural High,” as well.
In addition several vintage hydro drivers from the region are expected to participate. These include famed former Miss Madison driver Ron Snyder of southern Ohio, Butch Kropfield of Cincinnati, Mark Cravens of Columbus, Ind., Billy Noonan of Louisville, Ky., and possibly Dave Cousins, son of the late Billy Cousins. Two well-known vintage hydros, Miss Gale IV and Miss U.S. also are expected to participate, Johnson said.
Madison Vintage Thunder will coincide with the arrival to Madison of the Indiana Bicentennial torch. A local Bicentennial events planning committee is hoping to place the torch on a vintage hydro for a run around the river on Saturday, Sept. 17, during its brief stay in Madison.

• For more information on Madison Vintage Thunder, visit www.5tothe5.com or the event’s Facebook page. Or contact Dave Johnson at (812) 571-0330.

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