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56th Madison Regatta

Organizers say volunteers make event
go despite lack of title sponsor

By Don Ward
Editor

2006 Regatta Cover

2006 Madison
Regatta Cover

(June 2006) – After surviving – and profiting – from last year’s Madison Regatta event without a title sponsor, the nonprofit committee heads into its 56th year of Unlimited racing on the Ohio River again without a title sponsor but more confident than last year that it can pull off a successful event.
Although Anheuser-Busch pulled out of the sport after the 2004 season, including the retirement of its famous “Big Red Beer Wagon” Unlimited race boat, Budweiser has contributed $10,000 to be an associate sponsor for the 2006 Madison Regatta, set for July 1-2. Additional local sponsors have lined up to put their names on various heat races and festival events. The first official Regatta festival event begins Saturday, June 24, with almost daily activities taking place through July 2.
This year’s president, Buddy Gaw, said he learned from last year’s experience during which the not-for-profit committee operated on a $500,000 operating budget without a title sponsor. The committee made up the lack of sponsor money at the gate, enjoying perfect weather and a large turnout of fans on race days.
“We are happy to have the $10,000 from Budweiser, but that is no where near the amount we would have if we had a title sponsor. But that doesn’t prevent us from having an event; it just makes our job harder,” Gaw said following the June 14 Regatta membership meeting.
Gaw said the lack of sponsorship money forces the committee to curtail its advertising and marketing budget. The committee must find more creative ways to promote its event via word-of-mouth, the Internet and people willing to donate their time to distribute brochures to neighboring cities.

Buddy Gaw

Buddy Gaw

“It’s really the volunteers who make this event happen. These are the people who love Madison and love boat racing. The rest is all a big party with friends and family over the Fourth of July weekend,” said Gaw, 59.
A Louisville resident who works in the boat transport business, Gaw has been a member of the Regatta’s safety and rescue team since 1981 and this year will spend his time on shore directing the activities in and around the pits. “It’s the president’s job to see that things get done, but not the president’s job to do it all. I’ve had tremendous help from a lot of people, and everything is on schedule for another great year.”
Vice president Monte Sever, 33, of Madison said the running joke each year is that the committee is giving everyone a raise – another zero – since it is an all-volunteer organization. “There’s a misconception out there that we are getting paid to do this, but we all donate our time because we love the Regatta,” said Sever, who will become the youngest Regatta president ever next year.
Sever wants the public to provide its opinion on what type of other boat classes it would like to see run on the river, and says people may pick up an informational packet on the various classes at the Madison Regatta office on the riverfront.
“We love the Unlimiteds and vintage and 2.5 stocks, but we are open to new ideas as we move ahead,” Sever said.
Unlimited historian Fred Farley told the committee he would not want to see the current classes go away because the Unlimiteds and 2.5 stocks represent the full spectrum of the sport’s premier class (Unlimiteds) and the lowest entry class of race boats.
“The 2.5 stocks show that a guy doesn’t have to mortgage his house just to get into the sport, while the vintage exhibition races demonstrate to the fans that these boats didn’t just drop out of the sky; it took years of technology development to get there,” Farley said.

Regatta Parade

Photo by Don Ward

The annual Madison
Regatta parade
draws a crowd.

Sever said he wasn’t suggesting that the Regatta change its program necessarily, but that he wanted to hear the public’s input on the current race program for possible consideration for the future.
Gaw, meanwhile, made it his goal to increase the Regatta membership under his reign and accomplished that mission with an increase of nearly 30 new members. The organization boats about 110 members this year, up from about 80 before he took office.
“We wanted to get some new blood into the organization because these oldtimers won’t be around forever,” he said.

Advance admission to the Madison Regatta is $20 through June 25, with children ages 10 and under free. Admission at the gate is $25. The admission price includes three nights of Music on the River entertainment from Wednesday-Friday, June 28-30.
A $3 collector’s button sold at the music gates or an admission wristband is required for attending Music on the River activities. Saturday night’s music program and fireworks show at dusk is free to the public.
The Regatta committee also sells VIP passes for $125, cold pit passes for $20, tarp spaces and hospitality tent tickets. A parking pass is $20; an official race program is $5 and a pit tour is $3. RV parking is available.

• To order any of these options, call the Regatta office at (812) 265-5000 or visit the website: www.madisonregatta.com

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