Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
By William Kincaid
Governor's Cup Regatta gets green light
  CELINA - The Governor's Cup Regatta will happen in 2014 - for sure.
"There is no doubt that there will be a Governor's Cup in 2014, and it will be better than ever before. And what a statement and compliment to the committee when other races in Ohio are folding," Lake Restoration Commission Manager Milt Miller said Monday night on behalf of the regatta committee.
The committee hosted a sponsor appreciation party at the Celina Moose Lodge with members praising the community for its support of the race and revealing sponsorship opportunities for this year's event Aug. 23-24.
"We love what we do, we love being a part of this event and it gives us the opportunity to share what this community has to offer," committee member Allen Baskett said. "And we bring people in from all over the Midwest to come to our community to see the race, to experience what Mercer County and Auglaize County and the Grand Lake area has to offer."  
The regatta was nearly canceled in 2013. Last-minute contributions of $39,000 - including $20,000 from the Lake Improvement Association - allowed organizers to revive the race about a week after announcing it would not happen.
"But now there's a real sense of momentum," Miller told sponsors, local officials and media. "For the first time in many years, finances are solid coming into the event, and that's always a hurdle. And I can tell you the racers love to come to Grand Lake St. Marys and put on a good show. And the the committee is evaluating every aspect of the weekend to make it even better."
The hydroplane racing competition was canceled in 2010 due to blue-green algae toxins in the lake. In 2011, Grand Lake hosted the 2012 APBA Inboard World Championships. Unseasonably dry weather in 2012 forced organizers to cancel because of low water level.
Brian Miller, manager of Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, said he's very optimistic this is going to be a great year for water quality. He addressed concerns including the lake's water level.
"We had an issue with that one year," he said. "And we're sitting good with that. We did a little bit of a drawdown this year, which was part of the restoration plan that Milt and everybody's involved with. Spring rains are soon to come and things are going to be in good shape."
He also dismissed concerns about the abundant ice cover over the winter, an occurrence that preceded the algae problem a few years ago.
"I can tell you there's nothing scientific to back (that) up that we're going to see anything like we did that year," he said.
Regatta co-chairman Myron Buxton said a simple race costs $30,000 to produce and an ideal race tallies between $45,000 to $50,000. Sponsorship commitments have been pledged, but Buxton didn't give exact figures.
Deb Hemmelgarn, the former director of the Mercer County chapter of the American Red Cross and new regatta committee member, said it's important that local events like the Governor's Cup are kept alive and well.
"The people come up here and they see our great lake. They see the boat races. They see the things that we have that's living and growing right here in Mercer and Auglaize counties," she said. "They want to come here. They want to come here and spend their dollars. They want to spend their summers here."
According to Donna Grube, executive director of the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention & Visitors Bureau, the race brings in as much as $1.5 million to the local economy each year.
"Word of mouth is so important," she said. "You can see pages and pages and pages of advertising, but if your friend tells you some place was great or they had a good time, then you believe it."
Tom Swindling, co-founder and board member of the Mid American Championship Series, drove from Cincinnati to share his impressions of the Governor's Cup Regatta.
"Everybody loves this lake here," he said, speaking on behalf of fellow racers, including those from the East Coast.
He said it's one of the few races that doesn't charge admission.
"I think that is one of the biggest things you folks have is the hospitality, the way the people treat the people," he said.
Swindling also presented the regatta committee with the MACH Series 2013 "Race of the Year Award" for overcoming obstacles to make the event happen last year.
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