BY VON LOZON
Involved with the Roar on the River in one form or another since its inception 66 years ago, Fred Miller, now nearing 80, remains the heart and soul of the event in the eyes of those who have worked with him through the years.
Miller, who grew up in Trenton, raced on the river for the first time in 1955 and raced for 40 straight years. Miller started assisting in the boat races when he came home from the army in 1962. He took over as the director of the boat races in 1963. One of Miller’s first sponsors when he took over was his own business with his mother, Peg Miller and Son, which was a real estate firm. Along with four other sponsors, they raised $500 for the 1964 races.
“Fred is a rock star,” said Linda Francetich, the event’s director of marketing, entertainment and public relations. “The energy he has is beyond amazing. He’s my hero.”
Miller proved his rock star status earlier this year when he received the Charles D. Strang Ultimate Service Award from the American Power Boat Association at the group’s annual meeting. The service award is given to “one individual who exemplifies the highest standards of devotion and accomplishment for the benefit of the APBA through unselfish service, as have been uniquely set by Charles D. Strang during his more than seven decades of continuous membership in our organization.”
In an interview with Propeller Magazine, Miller acknowledged Strang and has known him for over 50 years and how he was “very honored to get this award.” The award was introduced in 2010.
Miller helped organize the first Roar on the River, which at the time was the APBA’s first stock outboard marathon nationals.
“The Trenton Roar on the River is the biggest event in Trenton in the summer,” Miller told Propeller. “They have their football and baseball and hockey, but as far as summer activities go, our race — along with the activities like the bands and fireworks — is the biggest event in the town all summer.”
When the races moved from Harrison Road to Elizabeth Park in 1964, the event didn’t have the other forms of entertainment that it has today. In fact, they only had one food and drink stand at the time. They now have several food vendors, bands that play at night and other forms of entertainment to go along with the boat races.
Another person that has benefited from having Miller stick around is Paul Jocks, the director of administration for the event. Jocks, a Downriver native, has known Miller since the early 1980s and met him through the Trenton Rotary Club.
“He has an attachment to this area and to the boat races,” Jocks said. “He’s affected a lot of people in a very positive way with his upbeat approach with dealing with challenges and problems. He’s helped in 66 consecutive boat races in Trenton, which is one of the longest, if not the longest running boat races. He’s a very energetic and upbeat individual.”
Although Miller hasn’t raced in over two decades, and now lives in Chicago, he plans on being the boat director for the races until he is unable to.
“As long as I am physically able, I will continue my involvement with the race and APBA,” Miller said.