The Grand Lake O'Cherokees Shootout is back.
The performance boat challenge takes place Thursday through Sunday, July 13 to 16 in Grove. It begins with a street party on Thursday and wraps with the awards ceremony on Sunday. Much of the event takes place at Lakeside Marina, next to Sail Boat Bridge.
GLOC organizer Linda Little said the event has grown due to the event's social media presence.
"We have almost 30 boats this year, so that is a big increase," said Little. "We are hoping to have a really good ground game this year and a good on the water crew."
One of the best vantage points for spectators by land is Sail Boat Bridge. In previous years, there had been talk of closing a lane on the bridge to allow more spectators.
While there won't be a closed lane this year, Little said volunteers will use golf carts to expedite the fans from Lakeshore to the bridge's sidewalk. There will also be umbrellas provided to protect the fans from the sun.
Little said a large tent with benches, provided by the City of Grove, will be set up on the shoreline for people to view the races.
Last year the event had a satellite location where spectators viewed the event. However because of sound issues, the organization decided against having a separate location.
One major change this year is the length of the course.
The usual length of the course has been a full mile. This year, Little said, they have reduced the track to three-quarters of a mile for safety reasons.
Georgians Jim Melley and Garth Tagge died in October 2016 when their boat, Tagge Skater, flipped into the Potomac River during a race. Melley and Tagge won the top non-professional category at the 2016 GLOC Shootout.
"We all got our heads together and decided that we were tired of doing memorials," Little said. "So Ken [Little] launched a really big campaign to bring the courses down to three-quarters of a mile instead of a mile."
Little said the cats tend to rear up and are more dangerous than the speed-bottom counterparts.
"When those guys hit those high speeds in those cats, those paws stick out there and they like to catch air," Little said. "There's a point of no return and you don't know what's coming and it was just time to slow them down."
Little said GLOC organizers took matters into their own hands to keep the racers safe.
"We have an advantage because we have a mile and a half [to run in]," Little said. "So it's not quite so bad as somebody who just has three-quarters. That being said, we moved the race course a little bit closer to Sail Boat bridge, so people can stand up there and see the racers.
"Because we have a smaller course and because the boats aren't getting quite so fast, we can bring them into where they can see things better."
Troops Charity Tour
Troops Charity Tour is a brand-new event, designed to benefit combat veterans in Grove. The run will begin at Lakeside Marina, go to Pensacola Dam before returning to Lakeside. The tour will feature on the water restaurants and marina facilities.
"The ladies are going to be serving breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning and those proceeds go to [the veterans]," said Little.
The Combat Vets Association has a radius of 75 miles around Grove.
"We have been wanting to find a local charity that really needed a lot of money and a lot of help, of course the veterans are a big group to help here," Little said. "The nice thing about it is that they're volunteering for us and we're helping them out with this, because they approached us and we thought it was a good deal."
Little said it's nice to be able to give back to local charities.
"It was very hard to do that in the first and second years, because you have to buy radar guns, you have to buy buoys, you have to buy a lot of things for the event," said Little.
Little said the organization dispensed with the frills in order to give back a little bit more.
"This is money that we want to give away to the organizations that help us," said Little. "We are just determined to make this event grow and give back to the community."
The fee for the tour is $195 for those not registered to race and $100 for race competitors.
Dealer, manufacturer's showcase
Another new feature for the 2017 edition of the Shootout is the Dealer and Manufacture's Showcase.
"We have six DCB boats," said Little. "This is a boat manufacturer and we are showcasing them. So they are bringing these boats in and Thursday afternoon, they are all going to conglomerate at Lakeside and get all cleaned up."
From there the boats will be escorted by officials with the Grove Police Department from Lakeside to the Block Party at the Grove Civic Center on Thursday evening.
"These are beautiful rigs, they are 77 and 65 feet long. They are huge and they are gorgeous," said Little. "It's going to be so fun. If people want to come down and see them at the civic center, they can and all of those boats are very fast."
Two favorites from the 2016 GLOC Shootout, American Ethanol and Second Amendment, are returning this year.
The 51 foot American Ethanol is owned by Don Onken of Easton, Illinois. Last year driver Slug Hefner and throttle John Cosker pushed the boat to 206 miles per hour.
"They are going to be one to watch, because they will probably still go over 200 [miles per hour]," said Little.
Second Amendment is owned by Joe and Terri Vaughn from Florida and operated by driver Karl Steger and throttles Neil Wobbe.
There are six racers from Oklahoma. Eucha's Ken Brown is the driver and owner of It's Implied. Carlton Bass of McAlester will race one of the boats featured in the showcase. Mike Neugebauer, from Oklahoma City, is the owner and driver of Habanero. Kevin Fullbright of Jenks is the driver and owner of Double Trouble. Chase Chappell, the driver and owner of Chase~N~Dreams, hails from Piedmont. Shawn Gibson from Broken Bow rounds out the pack.
On the Docks
For those who wish to stand on the docks during the races, Little said there is a way to achieve that.
"What we have been able to do is [for] people who want to go down on the docks, you have to sign a waiver, we charge them $20 a piece and they have to wear a wristband and no one under 18 can go down there," said Little.
Little likens the situation to the hot pits at NASCAR.
"That is really the only charge in the whole thing," said Little.
More About the Event
The free to the public event will take place over then span of four days, beginning Thursday, July 13.
The kickoff event for GLOC Shootout is the Street Party from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, July 13, at the Grove Civic Center, 1702 South Main, Grove.
On Friday, July 14, the Cruising the Docks Party takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. at Lakeside Marina. Food trucks and vendors will be available.
At 6:30 p.m., Friday, the drivers will all take part in Fire Up the Dock. This event features all of the drivers starting their engines. Most racing teams will be at their boats for a meet and greet with fans.
Competition begins on Saturday, July 15. Opening ceremonies take place at 10 a.m. and will feature a Missing Man Formation Run for Tagge and Melley. Competition begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m.
Sunday, July 16, racing begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. The awards ceremony will take place at 5 p.m., at Lakeside Marina.
"We just want everybody to come out and have fun," said Little.