Rotary roostertails World championship racing, ‘Roarstock’ music festival highlight weekend

TRENTON — Despite a down economy, organizers say this year’s National City Roar on the River will be anything but dull.
The annual event, built around powerboat racing, is set for Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Park. Members of Trenton Rotary, which organizes the event each year, say even loyal followers will find that the event quality and range of activities won’t suffer much — if at all.
Like many large outdoor festivals that rely on corporate sponsorship dollars, the Roar has seen its budget shrink from a year ago. But organizers say their enterprising planning should minimize noticeable differences from the events of years past.
“We’ve even been able to add a few new elements and make some changes that we think will make the event stronger this year and possibly in the years ahead as well,” co-chairman Paul Jocks said.
The only major element that has been scuttled entirely is the Saturday evening fireworks show, which had been sponsored the past two years by the Chrysler Foundation. “We knew going in that that probably was not going to happen this year,” Jocks said.
But Trenton Rotary hopes to offset that loss by generating some new excitement with the addition of “Roarstock,” a musical festival intended to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Fifty Amp Fuse, which made its Roar on the River debut last year, will return to headline the entertainment Friday evening.
Auditions held this past spring resulted in the selection of five other metropolitan area bands that will perform for an hour each on Saturday evening. Those bands are Category 5, Electric Playground, Rockhouse, The Wall Clocks and Wisteria.
Jocks said the Rotary committee that oversees the Roar has worked diligently to find cost savings while minimizing any negative impact on the various other events that are part of the weekend. Overall sponsorship dollars are down about 25 percent to this point, but that’s being offset through a variety of cost-saving efforts that organizers say should be mostly invisible to attendees.
Efforts have been made to develop some new lower-cost sponsor opportunities as well, including a Friends of the Races program that costs $50.
And the annual Friday night party, A Taste of the Races, is expecting participation from 36 area restaurants and caterers that have committed to participate — only two fewer than last year, event Chairman Lynn Nolan said.
The tastefest-style event will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and precede the concert by Fifty Amp Fuse. In a nod to the economy, Nolan said, event organizers for the first time are offering a discounted rate for blocks of 10 or more tickets. The individual price is $35, or $30 under the group purchase option.
The Rotary Club also is utilizing the party as an opportunity to collect nonperishable food items for a local food pantry. Attendees are being asked to bring an item to donate.
The highlight of the weekend, however, is outboard powerboat racing, and Racing Coordinator Fred Miller said he expects competition to be heated this year since Trenton is the site of Union Internationale Motonautique-sanctioned American Power Boat Association World Championships in the two main racing classes: SST 120 (F2) and SST 45 (F3).
“From the boat-racers’ standpoint, they love coming to Trenton,” said Miller, a veteran boat racer and former Trenton resident and business owner. “They love our Friday-night party, and they love watching the Jet Ski entertainment from the riverbank. It’s a great atmosphere for the event, and Elizabeth Park is a great location.”
Other featured racing crafts will include two-man inflatables and stock runabouts, as well as a “junior” hydro class that will feature the next generation of racers.
Other key activities returning this year include the Roar in the Park classic car show (Sunday), the Children’s Fun Fair (Saturday and Sunday) and the Typhoon Tommy Jet Ski stunt show (all weekend).
Another added event this year is a special military salute slated for noon Saturday that will feature a flyover. The event also is expecting to be the site of special visits by the Pistons’ Automotion dance team from 2 to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Trenton Rotary Club has been organizing the Roar as one of its club community service projects since 1976, and members say it’s a challenging endeavor that encompasses a wide range of planning efforts.
“It’s a great event, a great community event,” said Brad O’Connor, the incoming club president, who also serves as event site management director. “It will be more of a challenge this year, but we’re thankful for all the sponsors we have at every level.
National City, which currently is going through a merger with Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, again will serve as the title sponsor for the event. Gorno Ford is returning as the lead sponsor for the classic car show.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of an event like this, and organizers say the Roar weekend needs them to help out with a variety of activities.
Along with the traditional volunteers, committee member Linda Francetich noted everyone from teenagers to senior citizens are encouraged to lend a hand.
“We want high school kids, too,” she said. “If they need to perform community service hours, we can use people ages 14 and over.”
More about the event can be found at