July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:42 PM
"For the next few days, thousands of sailors - along with their families, friends and fans - will gather in Oak Harbor to participate in Race Week 2000.Now in its 18th year, the week-long event is the hands-down high point of Oak Harbor's summer season - especially since the Sea-n-Sky Fest has been grounded.It is Oak Harbor's proverbial golden goose.And until town leaders can build a convention center or pier, or both, why not figure a way to get a few more eggs?Walk down Pioneer Way this week - the business district closest to Oak Harbor Marina - and count how many businesses are promoting the event, or offering Race Week specials.To be sure, places like Mi Pueblo and For Pete's Sake will be booming. But why couldn't others?Why couldn't Pioneer Way merchants get together and promote their businesses well in advance of Race Week?Maybe host a fun run to five local bars and taverns? Or a moveable, progressive dinner at five local eateries?Offer discounts at local stores for showing a race week wrist band. Offer more shuttles to more hotels and restaurants and stores. Why not a live concert at City Beach Park with a top-notch band? Invite some quality food venders.Or consider that Race Week organizers produce programs and a daily paper. Isn't this a good avenue for promoting local businesses to visiting sailboat fans?Oak Harbor's Chamber could take the lead in helping local businesses strategize and contact other chambers to spread the word.Offer racers something fun and affordable and a way to get there, and who knows what could happen?If you were here for five days while a loved one raced out on Penn Cove or Saratoga Passage, would you ride a free shuttle to Deception Pass for a breathtakingly beautiful hike and lunch at a local restaurant?Moreover, there are some good places to watch the races around Penn Cove, including the Coupeville Wharf, Long Point and Monroe Landing.Some enterprising soul might hatch a plan to transport photographers and fans to one of those places, along with a boxed lunch and cold drinks.Maybe all the above ideas have been tried.But maybe not.Race Week organizers Stan and Paige Stanley and Bob Ross have already done all the hard work. Together, they've shaped and built a racing event described by Sailing World magazine as the 10th best in the United States and the 20th best in the world.It's an event that brings thousands of visitors to a city that seems to be searching for ways to develop tourism.What they can't do is herd those visitors out of the marina every day and night to discover restaurants and shops and natural attractions near Oak Harbor.That's up to someone else."