ArticleID: 160
Date: 8/1/2002
Written By: Captain Jackson

by Captain Jackson

Downtown residents have become used to the weekly summer events which occur along Michigan Ave, but during the fourth week of July they must have certainly felt as though the Jackson County Fair was being held downtown. In addition to Tuesday`s PICNIC IN THE PARK and Friday night`s CRUISE NIGHT, there was also the second annual RACE WEEK.

Because the events of RACE WEEK were held in different areas and at different times, probably the best way to describe what went on is to quote the flier: "This event celebrates the spirit of racing throughout our community and creates a strong link between the greater Jackson Area, Michigan International Speedway and the racefans we are privileged to host. Experience the thrill of racing whether it be a soap box derby car roaring down the street, the checkered flag waving the winner at MIS, or a hot air balloon rising above the landscape. The tradition of racing continues to grow with the anticipation of racefans of all ages."

For most people, Race Week began on Wednesday, July 24th with the parade of Semi-trucks down Michigan Avenue to Pearl Street, and the spaghetti dinner and celebration, called the PASTA PIT STOP at Kuhl`s Farmer`s Market. The event saw a few score people show up for the parade of Semi`s, a couple of IRL race cars, cars and members of the Jackson Corvette Club and three race car drivers.

Once at Kuhl`s, the race celebrates took their positions and many enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Music was in the air and though the attendance was limited, it proved that the old statement, "there`s nothing to do in Jackson" is just a fallacy.

Thursday evening, locals found the streets of Downtown Jackson closed again on Michigan Avenue between Blackstone and Francis. There were two events going on.

The first official Soap Box Derby in over twenty years took place, with the course beginning at the corner of Michigan and Blackstone and ending just before Jackson Street. By coincidence, a relative of the last winner in Jackson, Scott Denig in car # 28 won the overall race.

During the soap Box Derby competition, and at the other end of Michigan Avenue was what may become another annual event. Thanks to Pedal and Tour owner George Webster, The Rose City Bicycle Races were held. The first was a celebrity race which found Jackson Fire Chief Ken Gaiser the winner. Local celeb Bart Hawley of JTV-17 was riding a tandem bike with Jackson Citizen Patriot ace reporter Brad Flory who came in second. As Hawley joking said on his show the next day, "I drove in the front, Brad was in the back. I actually did all the pedaling and steering and Brad said...he coasted on two of yesterday`s FLR`s donuts during the race".

Afterwards, it was pure competition by bike riders from all over this part of the country. Though not an official part of RACE WEEK, many stayed through the light rain showers to see the competition. As organizer George Webster stated, "I`m excited about having this, I hope it grows."

And if that wasn`t enough, Friday night was a combination CRUISE NIGHT and RACE WEEK event in itself. Up to this point, CRUISE NIGHT attendance in Jackson has been down. Even the number of Classic and Hot Rod automobiles has been lacking. Some think it could be because of the events of 9-11. With last year`s average attendance of three to five thousand, and this year`s numbers of about half that, this CRUISE NIGHT topped all that with close to seven thousand people for the many events the Downtown area had to offer.

As far as the RACE WEEK going`s on, six o`clock found Race Week Chairman Jim Jansen holding the VICTORY LANE dedication ceremony in the alley between Huron Photo and Daryl`s Downtown where he credited the artists and designer of what will become a very nice park when completed later this year.

At the same, all of the IRL drivers who competed in Sunday`s first Michigan Indy 400 race were on hand just up the street to sign autographs and greet fans. In addition, free IRL bags were handed out with a number of goodies, including a video, a CD-ROM and a booklet containing all the facts regarding the INDY RACING LEAGUE, and it`s drivers.

Shortly afterwards, and just down Michigan Avenue between Mechanic and Francis was the Race Week Go-Kart Challenge. Running a large oval, many of the participants were actual race drivers and local celebrates themselves!

RACE WEEK continued with the weekend NASCAR and IRL races at MIS, but for the citizens of Downtown Jackson the excitement was a memory. Some people attended the races. Many watched them on television. But all will remember the one to one excitement that took place in Downtown Jackson during RACE WEEK.

Copyright 2002, CFC

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