BY VON LOZON
The Trenton and Wyandotte street fairs, the Uncle Sam Jam in Wood-haven and even the fireworks on the Fourth of July have always been big summer events in the Downriver area.
But perhaps no Downriver event has a richer tradition than the PNC Roar on the River, which will observe its 66th running when it is held in Elizabeth Park July 15-17.
This year will be similar to previous years, including the powerboat races, concerts and a “Taste of the Races,” which features a selection of restaurants and caterers from the Downriver area. There will also be food vendors all throughout the park.
“It’s a tradition,” said Boat Race Director Fred Miller. “There’s a long history of boating and racing on the Detroit River.”
The boat races weren’t always at Elizabeth Park, however. They started at the “foot of Harrison Road” and then moved to the park in 1964. They were moved back to Harrison Road until 2004. The organizers tried to move back to the park in the 1990s, but at that time Wayne County, which operates the park, wouldn’t allow them to sell alcoholic beverages. The main sponsor for the event at the time was Budweiser, so the event wasn’t able to relocate until beer and wine sales were permitted beginning in 2004.
The event, which has been run by Trenton Rotary since the 1970s, used to be just about the boat races. Over the years though it has been expanded to include bands, other forms of entertainment and food vendors. The move from Rotary Park to Elizabeth Park 12 years ago allowed for even greater expansion of the offerings.
When the event was at Rotary Park there was just one hot dog stand and one soda stand. The event now features a midway-style food area featuring numerous vendors from throughout the area.
There are two types of boats that will be used for the races; the SST45 and the SST 200. The 45s are 13 feet long and have 75-horsepower engines. Its max speed is approximately 80 mph. The 200s are 17 feet long and have 200-horsepower engines. The 200 can reach anywhere from 110-120 mph. The designs of the two boats are the same.
“The boat drivers love to come to Trenton,” said Linda Francetich, Roar on the River director of marketing, entertainment and public relations. “From the event coordinators to the vendors and restaurants, we are very focused on this community-based event. Everything is put back into the community and it’s a perpetual giving process.”
For the entertainment, several bands will be playing Friday and Saturday night, including Your Generation, DTour Band and Phoenix Theory.
One individual who helps put together the music is Moe O’Shaughnessy, who works with the lighting, stage and sound. O’Shaughnessy was the drummer for the Detroit band Salem Witchcraft in the 1970s and ’80s. O’Shaughnessy also does sound and video work at Comerica Park. He currently resides in Allen Park.
“He’s amazing to work with,” Francetich said. “He’s very humble and is very low key. He has a real strong history with rock and roll. His talent and expertise, what he brings to the event is amazing.”
The first event, the Driver’s School, begins July 15 at 12 p.m. The school will teach inexperienced boat drivers the basics and provide them with hands-on training. SST 45 and 200 testings will commence on Friday, with the races slated for Saturday and Sunday. An award ceremony for the winners of the boat races will be on Sunday at 3 p.m.