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City council revved up for 20th anniversary drag races

Passed an amended motion that next year's council not be restricted to a $25,000 upside budget for the annual Elliot Lake North Shore Challenge
2018-07-14 Elliot Lake Drags 20
Several thousand drag racing fans were on site at Elliot Lake Airport Dragway for the 19th annual North Shore Challenge on July 14. Brent Sleightholm for ElliotLakeToday

On the heels of the successful North Shore Challenge 19th edition this month, members of Elliot Lake city council heard glowing verbal reports from city staff members Kate Matuszewski and Darla Hennessey, and race executive member William Elliot on the outcome of the municipally-sponsored drag racing classic.

Organizers told councillors they need to start as soon as possible to entice drivers to make an early commitment to take part in next summer's 20th anniversary event at the Elliot Lake Airport Dragway. They say time is of the essence and it means they need to start talking the show up as soon as next month (August) at a drag race event being held in Wawa.

Hennessey said there were nine more drivers participating in Elliot Lake this year, compared with the 2017 race. But there were nine fewer participants in the super-pro category and six fewer this year in semi-pro. Mr. Elliot told council that a $25,000 budget for next year's race should be a base figure. Council members including, Luc Cyr, agreed they want next year's race to be a standout.

Councillor Chris Patrie commended organizers for their efforts this year. He said, "In light of the extreme heat that weekend, it's amazing the gate was down only slightly."  

Hennessey told council she had between 180 and 200 volunteers on site who worked for many hours all weekend. Councillor Sandy Finamore said without the volunteers, the event would have been impossible "if we had to hire all those employees."

At the Monday meeting, some council members wanted to commit increased funding for the city-sponsored drag race, now. The problem was how to do that and not limit spending to a budget which is passed by this year's council for the new city council set to be elected next October 22. The new council will be responsible for approving spending in 2019 for next year's race. This year's budget was $25,000. There were concerns that committing to a figure now could limit spending to that figure next year.

There were also discussions on ways to make the visitor experience at the Elliot Lake Airport Dragway better next year. Organizer Darla Hennessey told councillors while liquor sales were up two times over last year, beer sales were off a little. Mayor Dan Marchisella said it was simply too hot during the very warm Saturday and Sunday racing events for people to enjoy drinking cold beer while standing on hot asphalt. Both the mayor and councillor Tammy Van Roon suggested improved cooling facilities on site for people who could be defeated by the heat, especially children. Mayor Marchisella said his children seemed to have a two-hour tolerance limit for the heat and suggested adding outdoor showers or other water features next year to help people cool off.

Councillors were relieved to learn that Community Days to be held in Blind River again next year will not take place the same weekend as the North Shore Challenge, as they did this year. It's believed some of this year's crowd was lured away from the race to attend the weekend events in Blind River.

Elliot Lake Arts and Culture coordinator Matuszewski told councillors the North Shore Challenge attracted $57,000 in in-kind advertising from media outlets which participated in promoting the race this year. That included advertising on 12 different radio stations, 53 ads on CTV, daily print media exposure including the Sudbury Star, digital media coverage through Village Media (ElliotLakeToday) and Rogers, weekly newspapers, three billboards on Highway 17, and local restaurant promotions.

Council ultimately passed an amended motion that next year's council not be restricted to a $25,000 upside budget for the 20th anniversary Elliot Lake North Shore Challenge.


About the Author: Brent Sleightholm

As a reporter, Brent has covered everything from amateur and professional sports, to politics, entertainment, police and courts, to human interest stories and government issues
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