Madison Regatta readies for its
69th year of racing, music
The weeklong festival starts June 29,
to feature Gold Cup race
2019 Madison Regatta
June 29: Remote controlled boats. Noon at Jefferson Proving Ground’s Krueger Lake.
June 29: Little Miss and Miss Princess pageants at noon; Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Teen pageants at 6 p.m. Both events at MCHS Auditorium.
June 30: Cutie Pie and Baby Contest at Firemen’s Park. Registration at 12:30 p.m.; Contests start at 2 p.m.
July 1: Miss Madison Regatta Scholarship Pageant.
7 p.m. at North Madison Christian Church. Admission $10 at the door.
July 2: Madison Regatta Waterball Fights. 6 p.m. on Main Street in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
July 2: Movie “Madison” sponsored by the City of Madison. Free. 9 p.m. at Madison Bicentennial Park.
July 3: WORX-FM’s Street Dance begins at 7 p.m. on Vaughn Drive in front of Fireman’s Park.
July 4: Madison Regatta Free Music Fourth by Craig Toyota. Featuring four bands from 5-11 p.m. (See band schedule on this page). Food, beer for sale in the park. Patrons cannot bring coolers or alcohol into the park.
July 5: Madison Regatta Free Friday until 4 p.m.
July 5: Unlimited Drivers Autograph Session on Vaughn Drive. Time TBA.
July 5: Madison Regatta Parade. 7 p.m. on Madison’s Main Street. From Jefferson St. to Cragmont St.
July 5-6: Roostertails Music Festival
(At Madison Bicentennial Park; 14-under free)
• 5-11 p.m. Friday: The Pass, Fredrick the Younger, Little Stranger, Jamie Lin Wilson, Mike & the Moonpies. Concert gates open at 3:30 p.m.
• 2 p.m. - 12 a.m. Saturday: Brent Mathis, 16 Bones, Edgar Red, Justin Wells, American Aquarium, Brent Cobb, Whiskey Myers.
• Tickets: $25 for music festival only; $40 for an all weekend pass for both racing and music. $140 for race and music four-pack. Concert gates open at 1 p.m.
July 6: Jane Jacobs Memorial Madison Courier 10K Run & Walk. Event begins at 8:15 a.m. at MCHS parking lot.
July 6: Unlimited Drivers Autograph Session on Vaughn Drive. Time TBA.
July 6: Corn Hole Tournament. Noon at Fireman’s Park.
July 6: American Legion Post #9 Fireworks Spectacular presented by Commonwealth Engineers on the riverfront at 10 p.m. Sponsored by the American Legion Post #9, River Rat Rodz, City of Madison, Commonwealth Engineers.
• For admission wristbands and more information, call: (812) 274-0400 or visit: www.MadisonRegatta.com.
Also available at select retailers in town.
(July 2019) – The Madison Regatta has had its ups and downs over its 68-year history. But entering its 69th year, the event appears to be stronger than ever, both financially and enthusiastically. That’s because the current committee of 49 members, including 20 board members, are gearing toward putting on the best event possible, according to Regatta President Matt True.
Six and possibly eight Unlimiteds are expected to race, plus a fleet of GPW boats to return and a full lineup of 16 bands playing over three days as part of the second-year Rooster-tails Music Festival. In addition, there will be craft and domestic beer available, plus a new whiskey lounge at the music festival. The race weekend is preceded by a full week of daily festival events, including the Friday night parade and the Saturday night fireworks show on the Ohio River.
All that combined makes for what organizers hope will be a successful run, topping it all off by hosting the American Power Boat Association’s Gold Cup for the first time in Madison in nearly 40 years. The Regatta has secured a two-year commitment to hold the prestigious Gold Cup.
“We are hoping for a sellout of 10,500, but realistically, we are planning on 8,500 to 9,000 people this year. Online tickets are going well. We are setting record sales each month so far, so we are encouraging people to buy their tickets early before we do sell out. We are hoping that by having the Gold Cup here this year, it will bring a lot more people in to Madison.”
The 47-year-old Madison, Ind., native took over leadership last year when previous president Dan Cole resigned in May. True was vice president at the time and moved up to president to finish out Cole’s two-year term. He is in his first full year at the helm and will have one more year as president next year. True, who resides in Milton, Ky., works as a firefighter EMT at Dow Corning in Carrollton, Ky. He first became involved with the Regatta in 2012 as a member of the Safety & Rescue Team.
“For me, the importance of this event is economic growth for the community,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life, and it has been a great place to raise my kids. This town has done a lot for me and my family. And I think there comes a time when everyone has to decide if they’re going to get involved to help this event survive or sit back and watch it drift away.”
It was just a few years ago that the Regatta was in considerable debt of more than $100,000. Poor weather and high water over a few years also did not help, resulting in dwindling crowds on race weekend. But things began to change about three years ago, first under Cole, then led by True. The Regatta committee last year was able to pay off all of its old debt to the race series and began building on its future.
Photo by Don Ward
Madison Regatta President Matt True poses with the Gold Cup trophy.
“We have paid $82,000 of old past due debt from all previous years,” True said. “We paid out $23,000 plus to local civic organizations who helped us in 2018. We still have a line of credit (close to $50,000) that we took out as collateral on the Miss Madison Boat Shop, which Madison Regatta owns, so we are not completely debt free. A fun fact is that it takes almost a half million to put on this event. That’s right – a half million dollars, and the event brings into the community about $1.2 million for the week.”
Visit the website www.MadisonRegatta.com for tickets and information.
Increased ticket sales as a result of good weather years and the addition of a paid admission music festival helped along with the sale of alcohol for the first time, True said. But another financial boost came last year when the committee received a $50,000 Motorsports Improvement Grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
This year, the Regatta received a $75,000 grant from the IEDC to fund upgrades to electric and water services along the river and to expand and improve the Judge’s Stand. Those upgrades are expected to be completed by next year’s Regatta, True said.
With the Regatta now on solid financial footing, True and his committee members decided to ask to host this year’s Gold Cup. Much to their surprise, the APBA in Detroit agreed to a deal.
“For as long as I can remember, the Gold Cup has mostly been held in Detroit and did not travel around much,” True said. “But this year when we heard that the Detroit race was having some financial difficulty and might be willing to give it up, we decided to at least ask. Quite honestly, only recently have we been in a strong enough financial shape to ask for it.”
A few weeks later True and his wife and daughter were driving north to retrieve the 43-inch-tall trophy and bring it back to Madison. For many hydroplane race fans, the sight of the Gold Cup back in Madison immediately brought back memories of the historic 1971 Gold Cup race won by Miss Madison and underdog driver Jim McCormick. It was the stuff, literally, from which movies are made, and it was the basis for the 1999 movie “Madison.”
True wasn’t even born yet, but recently he has been Googling and watching old black-and-white footage of the historic race on YouTube. “It was something that really brought a lot of pride to the town back then. We are hoping we can bring back that kind of pride to Madison with the program we have planned this year,” he said.
Since 1971, the Gold Cup was run in Madison twice – in 1979 and won by Bill Muncey in the Atlas Van Lines and in 1980 and won by Dean Chenoweth in the Miss Budweiser.
Even without the price of hosting the Gold Cup, staging the annual race weekend is an expensive task. The fee to H1 Unlimited alone to bring in at least six Unlimited is $160,000. Then there’s the added cost of insurance, cranes, fencing and other logistics of holding the event. All told, it approaches $500,000 to $520,000, True said.
This year’s race course has been set as a two-mile track, with a 1.25-mile course inside the larger one for the automotive-powered Grand Prix World boats. The Unlimited course will not go under the Milton-Madison Bridge this year. So fans on either side of the river will need to be west of the bridge to see all the action. Last year’s course was 2.5 miles long.
The race schedule had not been finalized as of press time, but True said he expected it to be similar to last year, with both Unlimiteds and GPW boats taking turns racing heats on both Saturday and Sunday, with the final run for the Indiana Governor’s Cup and Gold Cup completing the action late Sunday afternoon.
Another thing new this year is that rather than offer guided pit tours for $5 each, the purchase of a race wristband or combo race-music wristband will allow fans into the pits in between races to get a closer look at the colorful boats.
True credits his team for helping to bring the Regatta back onto solid footing. But his fellow committee members also give him a lot of the credit for his leadership.
“I can’t say enough good things about the direction Matt has taken the Madison Regatta organization,” said Turner. “He’s a proven leader and a winner. Under his leadership we have grown Roostertail Music Festival into one of the premiere music festivals in the Midwest. On top of that, we have the Gold Cup in Madison for the next two years.
Under Matt’s leadership, the Madison Regatta has truly retuned the excitement we all grew up knowing and loving about this festival.”
Regatta Festival Chair Kim Washer said, “Matt True is an excellent leader for the Madison Regatta. He started with Safety and Rescue several years ago. He holds more certifications than anyone I know, and that’s one thing that we really needed, so I ask him to join the organization. He stepped up to become the vice president and ended up taking over as president and adding another year to his two-year term. He’s very organized, has a lot of great new ideas, not afraid to stand his ground and jumps in where needed. We are very fortunate to have him and his wife, Kim, as a part of our organization.”
Meanwhile, True said of the future of the festival, “We think the event feels fresh again like it has gone through a total makeover, adding things that people want so they are coming back. Sell music and sell beer. So with Bicentennial Park being a proven concert venue, it was natural for us to do so. Now it seems like a no brainer. This is Madison’s biggest reunion, and the word is getting out again that it’s a must attend event again.”
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