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Race Week’s great, but little known | Editorial
Race Week in Oak Harbor just finished its 30th consecutive successful run. Many of the sailors are still at the Oak Harbor marina, enjoying a final weekend in our friendly town while making preparations for a long, enjoyable sail home. The winners have received their accolades and the losers are scheming in their heads how to do better next year, mainly centering on thoughts of buying a better boat, no doubt.
It was a great week for participants, as is always assured by the organizers. The latest owner, Gary Stuntz, attracted more than 100 boats to town with crews and family members exceeding the 1,000 mark. It provided a huge boost for Oak Harbor’s restaurants and retail stores and, at least for a week, made the city’s declining sales tax revenues perk up.
But it seems like more could be made of Race Week if the owner had more help from the community, particularly in term of publicity and ceremony. Presently, events and activities are centered at the Yacht Club, which is a bit off the beaten track, and most events are open only to participants. For years the Navy threw a party for the entire community during Race Week, but that tradition has been suspended, at least temporarily.
Oak Harbor could have a lot more fun with Race Week with an official welcoming of the fleet, and perhaps a blessing from a mix of those from Dutch Reformed, Native American, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, Nazarene and other religious traditions (sorry to those we left out). Awards could be presented in a ceremony downtown; close Pioneer Way for a short time and allow the merchants to cater to the milling throng. The mayor could present an appropriate symbol, perhaps a golden keel, to the boat judged most competitive, and other awards given to select crews judged outstanding for their competitiveness, attire or ability to work together as one.
The website operated by the city links to the Race Week site but doesn’t directly tell the visitor of the allure of Whidbey Island and all they things there are to do while enjoying Race Week. Nor does it tell how to enjoy Race Week, which viewing points are best, and since there are no public events, there can be no mention of such.
The Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce website has Race Week on its calendar, but precious little more unless we missed the correct place to click.
Race Week is an established event, a great event, one that far more people could enjoy if we worked together a little bit more. The time to start helping the owner plan for next year is now.