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Harbor Beach, Michigan
Maritime Festival
Can-Am Cup
July 17-18, 2004


Can-Am Cup hysteria invades Maritime Festival
Chris Ogryski
Sports Writer - Huron County Press


It’s amazing what watercraft enthusiasts can do when they put their minds to it.

What started out as just a keen observation on a message board at a popular watercraft website (www.iamremar.com) back in 2002 has turned into one of the most highly anticipated racing events of the entire season and the cornerstone of this year’s Harbor Beach Maritime Festival. 

Just before the 2002 Maritime event, a comment was made by Jeff Hedges of Hammertime Productions, who noticed an influx of Canadian talent participating in the US Grand National races throughout the year. Hedges wondered out loud about the possibilities of a competition between the two countries. Al Kleinknecht, a member of the Harbor Beach Maritime Festival Committee, read the post and helped answer the challenge.

“I posted that I knew where one (a competition between American and Canadian racers) could be held and within 15 minutes we were talking about the Can-Am cup,” Kleinknecht said. “I knew we could do it up here and Hammertime Promotions knew how to organize it.”

Due to their vision, these dreamers were able to setup a format for the race, heavily advertise the event, and most importantly get enough Canadian racers to attend- all in a matter of weeks. “All we needed were some Canadians (to make this thing happen). For that task, we got famed promoter Shelly McCloskey to rally her Canadians and the rest is history,” Kleinknecht said.

Two years later, the PWC (personal water craft) craze is reaching new heights in the Thumb area and that is why over 5,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Budweiser Can-Am Cup races at the Harbor Beach Maritime Festival on July 16th- 18th. In fact, the event has become so huge and the racing so popular, that the Harbor Beach event is the 2nd largest spectator event for Personal Watercraft Racing in the entire country.

“No where else can you get the feeling that you do when watching this event,” Kleinknecht said. “It is like you are in the middle of the course.”

One of the best parts of the popular Cup event is that the experience doesn’t limit you to being a spectator. If the pro-America spirit is swirling in your bloodstream and you have the urge, you can tryout in the qualifier and see if you can make the team. The best 9 times in each of the 3 classes (Ski Open, 800 Runabout Open, and 1200 Runabout Open) will be rewarded with a spot on the US team. Where else can you go to an event and see novices, experts, and pro riders all on the same team competing for national pride?

But the novices should beware, because qualifying for the team will be very challenging. “To race for the Can-Am cup you have to qualify, which is no easy feat,” Kleinknecht warns. “(But those who want to try) could register… and race as a beginner by signing up for the morning of the event.”

If this level of competitive racing seems a little too daunting, the festival will also be holding their 1st ever (hopefully annual) Light House Poker Run, which is designed to make those PWC enthusiasts who don’t want to take on the extremes of the Can-AM cup (like the much feared ramp jump) but still want to feel more of a part of the festival. The poker run will be a closed course buoy run with some additional elements (currently being added) and the winner will be honored as part of the closing Can-Am awards ceremony.

If that isn’t enough to wet your whistle about one of the biggest festivals in the Thumb area this summer, there are still plenty of non-racing related events being held with a variety of appeal. Many of those events revolve around music, as Friday night the Robert Lee Band will play as well as Thom Ellis playing on Saturday night. There is even the possibility of a battle of the bands on Thursday, but that has yet to be made official.

What is “official” is that the identity of who will be singing the American and Canadian National Anthems is being kept secret and should be a pleasant surprise for all those who attend.

Other events already scheduled will include a talent show on Wednesday, a car cruise on Friday night, a Saturday car show, the “Invitational” on Friday night (a timed watercraft competition between teams representing event sponsors), and of course a spectacular fireworks show Saturday night.

With such a wide range of activities being held, the Harbor Beach Maritime Festival is just the kind of summer excitement that should have something for everyone in the family to enjoy. When you combine this well rounded schedule with the tons of hype the event is getting on the watercraft websites, it is likely this will be the most attended festival in the event’s history.

So mark July 16th- 18th on your calendars or risk missing out on one of the most action packed, high octane festivals in the Thumb area this summer.














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