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Kingston revved up for holiday boat races

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By Mike Gibson

The long wait is nearly over.

Anticipation is high as Kingston Parks and Recreation officials work this week to bring popular powerboat races back to the city’s waterfront for the first time in almost two decades.

The American Powerboat Association will have its Pro Class national championship races at Fort Southwest Point, with trials beginning Monday July 1, and racing heats to follow July 2-4.

The sport of powerboating — once a July 4 holiday favorite among Kingston residents — hasn’t been staged here in 18 years.

“People are excited; they’re glad it’s back,” said Kingston Parks and Recreation Director Rick Ross.

“Since they were here last, we’ve held drag-boat racing, wakeboarding — but none of it has been as popular as the powerboats.”

Ross began working toward getting powerboat racing back in Roane County shortly after last year’s Independence Day holiday.

Kingston’s bid for the racing’s championship was rewarded in December, when the association chose the city from among many others across the country to host this year’s finals.

“It’s been held in Indiana the last several years, so I guess we won out over them, too,” Ross said.

“They looked at our history with powerboat racing, and at the fact that we had another event to piggyback it with,” he added. “But they were also really impressed by the fact that we were so interested in bringing the races back.”

It was a huge effort. The parks department took on the responsibility of raising around $18,000 for the event. That’s on top of the $40,000 already required to host the city’s usual July 4 festivities, which include music, food vendors, a classic car show, a kids’ zone, homemade raft race, and what Ross boasts is the largest day-of-the-Fourth fireworks display in East Tennessee.

That $18,000 — which was raised through a combination of business and private donations and special fund-raising events — goes toward sanctioning fees, prize money and promotional costs of the races.

Racing begins every day at noon, with the exception of July 4, when the racers get underway at 11 a.m.

The Pro Class — the sport’s largest class — will feature a variety of boat and motor types, moving at speeds that should top out around 125 mph.

The competitors will be racing a quarter-mile oval-shaped course, running four laps each heat.

Racing will continue each day until sundown. Volunteers  are sought to help with the racing event.

Admission to the competition will be a $2 gate fee, or $5 for a three-day wristband.

Ross added that the July 4 celebration will begin at noon, with classic car show and raft race to follow.

Fireworks will commence at dark.

Pets will not be allowed at the park during the holiday festivities, Ross said.