After 11 years of drag racing action on Memorial Day and Labor Day in Boyne City, the event was nearly totaled.
However, thanks to quick thinking by Boyne City Manager Michael Cain, and the devotion of nearly a dozen long-time race fans, the event is back on.
“Right now there’s 18 days until the normal day of the Labor Day Drag Race and I wasn’t hearing anything coming together with regards to the future of the race so I thought, well, let’s pull some people together and see what the comments are on it,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain. “And, if there is enough interest and enough people power to make it happen in the future, that’s what we want it to do.”
Cain, who is also acting manager of the Boyne City Municipal Airport, called a meeting of racers, race volunteers and police officials who have helped make the race a reality in the past, to discuss the fate of Boyne City’s drag racing event on Wednesday Aug. 13 at Boyne City Hall.
“Right now we’re basically at a point, with the police department stepping back from their involvement in the drag race this year, where we’re basically trying to figure out what are we going to do, or anything, with regards to keeping the drag race going,” Cain told a room of nearly a dozen people. “I’ve always thought it’s been a real popular and fun event. The police department’s done a great job of running it over these last 11 years.”
The consensus of those in attendance of the hour-long meeting was that the race could still be held.
The races, which have traditionally been operated by the Boyne City Police Department at the airport, were in need of a group who could safely run the event after the police department decided it could no longer take responsibility for the event, citing officer burnout and a lack of manpower.
In the past, the airport and the Boyne City Police Department had split the drag race profits. It began as a 75-25 split in favor of the airport but in recent years it became a 50/50 split between the two entities.
In the last few years, the event raised upwards of $10,000 to $12,000 for each of the Memorial Day and Labor Day races.
“It’s always remained profitable,” said Cain, who added that the Lions Club provided insurance coverage for the event in addition to the concessions.
Cain asked for suggestions as to potential groups that may be willing to take the race over.
Boyne City Municipal Airport Assistant Manager Richard Bouters, who represented the airport board at the meeting, said the board had not interest in, or ability to, operate the races. But added that the board would support the event should someone else take it over.
“Closing an airport is a very risky proposition, and the FAA and the state—right on down to airport users—are very reluctant to see that happen,” said Bouters.
Bouters said the airport board receives many complaints from people upset that the airport is closed for a day-and-a-half each time there is a race.
“There’s 33 hangars up there, and everybody that has a hangar wants to be able to use their airplane when they want to use their airplane,” said Bouters. “So, that poses an issue for the users. Fuel sales are a problem for that, as is access to the airport. Having said that, we as a board have always felt that it was worth doing that for the fund-raising aspect and what it brings to the community.”
He added, “Right now that conversation with airport users is still in the negative mode and a lot of those people would like to just see it go away.”
Bouters said the board feels the races are important enough to continue, at the 50/50 split, should a group step forward.
He added that the board would like to see some potential changes to the races.
First, the board would like it considered to see the races occur on a weekend that is not a holiday—not including this year’s race.
Also, the airport board would prefer the races be held only once per year.
“The board, as a group and as individuals, has no desire or ability to take it on as an airport board project but our support will be that we will continue to make sure the airport will be available for use,” said Bouters.
Cain said the airport would have to continue to receive at least 50 percent of the event’s profit for the event to continue. Whoever takes over the race would receive the other half of the profit—though that percentage could be subject to change depending on what the airport board and a volunteer group (or groups) agrees on.
Cain asked the group if they felt they could organize the event in the two-and-a-half weeks left before Labor Day weekend.
“The insurance is there. We can get it closed. But, the real work … getting all the people to set it up starting at least on Saturday. In addition to the paperwork, you need to advertise it to let people know it is on, it’s not dead,” Cain said.
Though opinions differed, it was ultimately decided that the event was doable.
A couple of Boyne City Police Department Officers said they would be willing to show volunteers how to set up the race.
One individual, who has raced in Boyne City for years, offered to loan his front-end loader to move the large cement blocks necessary for the race track.
Another event attendee said he and his children had been volunteering at the races for at least seven years and he did not want to see the event end.
Several other people who had either raced before or helped set up the track volunteered their services as well.
Cain said if a leader for the effort could not be found, he would be willing to step in for this year to help see the race to fruition … with the understanding that if some key element does not materialize—i.e. volunteers do not show up—the race could be called off at any time.
The time and date of the race is planned for noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 31. More details to come as the group gets further along in its planning.
The group is expected to meet again next week to see where it is at in the planning process.
Anyone wishing to volunteer their time or services for this year’s Boyne City Drag Races should call Boyne City Manager Michael Cain at Boyne City Hall—(231) 582-0377.