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Regatta on the Rebound

Madison’s biggest festival week
offers a variety of family fun

A strong field of Unlimiteds
plus vintage boats on tap

Don Ward

(July 2012) – After a challenging year of rebounding from the tragic accident that plagued the 2011 Madison Regatta, the festival committee has managed to return in 2012 with a strong program that features one of the most competitive fields yet of Unlimited hydroplanes to race on the Ohio River.
What’s more, the committee has added a vintage race boat exhibition to the schedule, providing both racing excitement and nostalgia to this year’s Regatta, which has once again secured title sponsorship from Lucas Oil.
The all-volunteer Madison Regatta Inc. is expecting a successful 62nd year of staging Madison’s largest festival and the popular H1 Unlimited Hydroplane boat racing series July 6-8.
Crystal McHargue, who presided over the committee as president for four years. has stepped down but has been working closely with president Herb Parker to organize this year’s event and carry on the Fourth of July tradition in Madison. But it did not come without first securing insurance after having been dropped from the previous insurance company in the wake of last year’s accident. In fact, Parker told his committee a few weeks ago that this year’s Regatta could lose as much as $25,000 because of the higher cost for insurance.

J.W. Myers

File photo by Alexis Saba

J.W. Myers, driver of the U-11
Peters & May Unlimited
hydroplane, signs autographs
for race fans at a previous
Madison Regatta festival. Myers
won the Indiana Governor’s Cup
race here in 2005 while driving
for his then-boss Erick Ellstrom.

Other costs to rent cranes and safety and rescue equipment also have gone up, adding to the financial woes. Yet, the committee has persevered and secured a new insurance policy just in time to bring a fleet of 12-13 Unlimiteds to Madison. Then on June 5, the Regatta committee announced it had secured Lucas Oil’s support once again as its title sponsor. The committee also reported that it earned $6,000 from its second annual car show, held last Memorial Day Weekend.
Last year, the Regatta was plagued by two accidents. The first occurred when Brian Perkins drove his Unlimited boat across the infield and accidentally veered off course and into a safety rescue boat. All three volunteer safety rescue people were thrown into the river and injured. All three subsequently filed lawsuits and those suits were recently settled.
Then in the four-lap Final Heat, driver Dave Villwock’s boat, Spirit of Qatar, spun out in front of the Oh Boy! Oberto-Miss Madison on the fourth lap, resulting in his disqualification. Steve David, driving the Oberto, was unable to avoid a collision with the Qatar. The Oberto rolled over in mid-air and landed upright. Neither driver was seriously injured but both boats sustained damage. The Oberto was declared the winner, repeating the previous year’s victory.
Ongoing construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge also will impact the race course setup for the second year. Last year’s 2 1/2-mile course was shortened to 1.67 miles because of the bridge construction. Race boats were not to be routed under the Milton-Madison Bridge as in years past. This year, the course has not yet been determined but is likely to be lengthened to at least two miles by moving it west and farther downstream and away from the bridge, race officials say.
Aside from the insurance and legal issues stemming from the infield boat accident, plans for the festival and associated events have not been affected. In fact this year, just three weeks before the Regatta, the committee added a vintage race boat exhibition to the program. These restored boats from yesteryear have always been popular with hydroplane racing enthusiasts, young and old alike. Ten vintage boats are scheduled to run in “fly-bys” in between the Unlimited heats on Saturday and Sunday.
Here are some other highlights to expect at the 2012 Regatta Festival:
• Eleven contestants will vie for the Miss Madison Regatta Scholarship Pageant crown on Monday, July 2, at the Madison Consolidated High School Auditorium. They are Brooke Logan Bell, 20, of Madison; Kelsey Jo Shaw, 19, of Madison; Macy Jo Taylor, 19 of Madison; Elizabeth Hayley Franklin, 22, of Carrollton, Ky.; Christin Michelle Stoops, 21, of Carrollton, Ky.; Mary Carrington Truax, 20, of Madison; Taylor Alexis Leek, 18, of Madison; Stacey Lynn Corry, 21, of Bedford, Ky.; Caroline Nicole Strange, 18, of Madison; Kelsey Marie Bladen, 19, of Lexington, Ind.; and Erica Lee Moore, 21, of Pleasureville, Ky. The event is organized by the Xi Beta Upsilon Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. Tickets are $8 and available at the door.
• A full slate of music is planned for Wednesday through Saturday nights at the riverfront. Admission is a Regatta wristband or a $5 vintage Regatta badge. This year’s lineup will feature hometown favorite Rusty Bladen, who is returning to the Regatta stage after a seven-year absence. He will also debut some new songs and a new band, the Mighty River Kings. (See full music schedule on Page X)
• The annual Regatta Parade is a Fourth of July tradition in Madison and will again step off at 6:15 p.m. Friday, July 6, on Main Street, beginning at Jefferson Street and heading west to Cragmont Street. This year’s grand marshal will be Brig. Gen. Gene Spicer, a native of Dupont, Ind. Spicer now lives near Commiskey and last served as deputy commander of the Indiana Guard Reserve’s Task Force-South from July 1996 to Sept. 2004. Parade chair Merle Horton announced Spicer as the grand marshal to fit a theme of honoring the military.
• The 34th annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Run & Walk takes off at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 7, from the Madison Consolidated High School parking lot. This year’s honorary starter will be MCHS girls varsity basketball coach Gene Humes. He coached the Lady Cubs to a sectional championship last March in his inaugural season with the team. The walk begins at 8 a.m. with the race starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at Lytle Park downtown. A shuttle bus will transport participants back to the hilltop. Last year’s race attracted more than 500 runners and walkers.
• Saturday night’s fireworks show will begin just after dark, approximately 10 p.m., from a barge in the middle of the Ohio River. Admission to the riverfront that night is free. This year’s fireworks show is being jointly sponsored by the American Legion Post 9 and Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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