The Great Race - June 29
The City of Covington will host an overnight stop on the 2013 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty on Saturday, June 29.
The Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, is expected to bring up to 100 antique automobiles to historic downtown Covington. The antique cars will be parked along New Hampshire and Lockwood streets, near the Covington Trailhead, 419 N. New Hampshire Street, around 5 p.m.
In honor of the City’s Bicentennial Celebration, there will be live music by the New Orleans-based band Swingaroux from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Covington Trailhead. The concert and the car show are free and open to the public. Beer and wine will be available for purchase at the event.
Also, preceding the Great Race and the Trailhead concert is the Covington Bicentennial Parade, which will roll through Covington at 12 p.m. that same day. “The whole family will enjoy this fun-filled afternoon in downtown Covington. After the Bicentennial Parade, you can walk to one of our downtown restaurants to have lunch, or do some shopping around town before the Great Race festivities,” says Aimee Faucheux, City of Covington Cultural Arts and Events Manager.
The Great Race will start June 22 in St. Paul, Minn., at the State Fairgrounds as part of the “Back to the 50s” car show and weave its way down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico through 10 states and crossing the river a dozen times before the finish in Mobile, Ala., on June 30. The stop in Covington will be the last on Day 8 of the 9-day race. The cars will arrive from a lunch stop in Crowley, La., earlier in the day.
The Great Race, which began 30 years ago, is not a speed race, but a time/speed/distance rally. The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret check points along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.
Cars start – and hopefully finish – one minute apart if all goes according to plan. The biggest part of the challenge other than staying on time and following the instructions is getting an old car to the finish line each day, organizers say.
The cars will arrive after 5 p.m. at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay parked for several hours to allow spectators to visit with the participants and to look at the cars. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look. Louisiana Northshore and the City of Covington are helping with the plans.
Cars built prior to 1969 are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2012 Great Race, a 1907 Renault and a 1914 Ford Model T were the two oldest vehicles. There were also two 1916 Hudsons, a 1916 Packard, a 1917 Hudson and a 1917 Peerless in the event and many of those cars are expected back again in 2013.
Last year’s winners, Barry and Irene Jason of Keller, Texas, drove a 1935 Ford coupe. The 2013 winners will receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse, based on 100 entries.
Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nev., to New York City.
“When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” race director Jeff Stumb said. “Last year we had 25,000 spectators at the start in Traverse City, Mich., and another 15,000 people at lunch in Fairport, N.Y., on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during our 20 city stops.”
After leaving Covington the following morning the cars will head west to Irvington, Ala., for the ninth and final lunch stop.
The other overnight stops along the route are in La Crosse, Wisc., on June 22; in Davenport, Iowa, on June 23; in Hannibal, Mo., on June 24; in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on June 25; in Germantown, Tenn., on June 26; in Vicksburg, Miss., on June 27; in Baton Rouge, La., on June 28; and in Mobile on June 30.
The other lunch stops are Eau Claire, Wisc., Dubuque, Iowa; Peoria, Ill.; Washington, Mo.; Paragould, Ark.; Monticello, Ark.; and Natchez, Miss.
The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.The Great Race gained a huge following from late night showings on ESPN when the network was just starting out in the early 1980s. The first entrant, Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, is still a participant today and will be racing a 1916 Packard again this year.
The City of Covington and the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission are local sponsors for this event. The race’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire, Reliable Carriers, Meguiar’s and Steele Rubber.
For more information, go to www.greatrace.com.