Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Boat races give economic boost to Wakefield

WAKEFIELD - Power boat race officials estimate that Wakefield has seen an increase of about 500 people with the Wakefield Outboard Nationals in town this week. That includes the racers, family members, friends and spectators.

Local business owners say it has given their community an economic shot in the arm.

Jami Tauer, owner of Ma's Place Cafe, said business has been "phenomenal." Tauer said that with very little racing going on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the gusty winds and poor water conditions on Sunday Lake, more people have headed into town.

"We had 354 people in our restaurant on Wednesday," Tauer said. "We average about 200 a day. This event is a huge boost to help get us through the slower winter months. I'm expecting even more people on Friday, Saturday and I heard they might still be racing on Sunday. I wish they were here every year.

"The waitresses are happy getting more tips and these people are good tippers. We appreciate their business and we try to give them what they want as quickly as possible and everybody's happy."

Jason Pallin, owner of the Sunday Lake Supermarket, said his grocery store has been "real busy" since Sunday.

"You could tell they were here," Pallin said. "The shelves were pretty bare before the supply truck arrived. They bought a ton of ice and mostly chips, pop and burgers. The Outdoor National group put on a feed for the racers at the Wakefield VFW and they ordered 450 homemade brats for the feed. If you drive through town, the parking lots are full of cars with out-of-state license plates."

Rick Randall said Randall's Bakery has been "flooded" with all the new people in town.

"We've had about 25 percent more customers and that's a minimum," Randall said. "On the windy days (with racing suspended), it was more like a 50 percent increase. A lot are return customers and some have been coming in for the last 10, 20 years. It's great to see so many people in town. We're making a lot of pasties and they seem to really like the pasties in particular."

Randall said it was great to see Wakefield "come to life" with all the racers and their entourage in town.

Throughout the years, all three business owners said the drivers and their families have developed a reputation of being "very nice people" and friendly to boot.

"They are awesome people," Tauer said. "I have yet to see one that wasn't."

Wakefield city manager Margot Anderson said the economic boost was the main benefit of the Wakefield Outboard National races and that even spots outside of town such as Indianhead Mountain Resort were filled to capacity.

"We welcome these people to our community and we couldn't be happier to have them here," Anderson said.

Anderson said the Wakefield city council is interested in hosting more annual events in Wakefield.

"We hope to have people brand us regionally as the beautiful, family-friendly and welcoming community," she said.

Anderson said Wakefield is looking at hosting more music events, flea markets and annual sporting events.

"We are also looking at ways to increase silent sports such as kayaking, paddle boating, canoe events and snow-shoeing in the winter," Anderson said. "We would like to have more fishing contests and the DNR will be stocking more walleyes in Sunday Lake. We just had our first logging Lumberjack Festival that went over great. Eddy Park is a natural for many of these events."

Anderson said the only negative she has heard about the Wakefield Outboard Nationals was a rumor being spread around that the racers and their families don't spend any money in town and get free camping in Eddy Park. Anderson wanted to set the record straight and said both parts of the rumor were "absolutely untrue."

Weather delays

The weather - and most especially the wind - continued to plague the racing on Thursday.

Rick Olson, chairman of the Wakefield Outdoor Nationals, said about five heats were raced on Thursday morning before the winds became too gusty. A thunderstorm then went through the area in the early afternoon and delayed the boat-racing even further. Racing resumed about 4 p.m.

"We'll go (race) until about 7 p.m. and on Sunday if needed," Olson said.

Drivers raced for about two hours on Tuesday and Wednesday's racing was canceled due to strong winds.

Rendered 05/21/2024 15:58