News 12 First at Five / Friday, July 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Augusta Southern Nationals races are back in town, but the boats won't be the only thing booming this weekend -- the local economy will, too.
"This is a big weekend for Augusta. The Master's tournament -- huge! But this is a big weekend," said Peggy Seigler of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Augusta Southern Nationals drag boat races will be dragging in thousands for the biggest and fastest boat races of the year.
"It brings in a lot of locals, but it also brings in a lot of folks from out of town as well. [We] expect over 20,000 people to be on these grounds this weekend," Seigler said.
Bringing in people means bringing in money. Between hotels, food and fun, visitors from around the country will be giving Augusta a welcome boost.
"Usually in about 24 hours, they'll spend about $266. So the event is great, and it's good for the community, but it's also great for our local businesses. Not only hotels, but restaurants, and even gas stations," Seigler said.
That adds up to about $1.2 million in direct visitor spending and that's not even counting the locals who will be joining in on the fun.
"It's become a major event for this city in the summer every year. It gives the city great exposure all over the United States," said Race Chairman Dayton Sherrouse.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Georgia Special Olympics.
"We count on this every year. We really count on it," said Special Olympics Chairman Arthur Dickerson.
"We've given anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 every year to them. We're one of their biggest financial supporters for the local chapter here," Sherrouse said.
"It means a lot because no athlete is penalized if they don't have the funds to go. The area picks up the tab and pays for the athlete if they don't have the funds to go," Dickerson said.
This is the race's 27th year, and there's no sign of it slowing down. That means the people -- and their money -- will keep coming back.
"We treat the racers and the spectators that come in from out of town. They just have a great time while they're here, and they go back, and in essence, become ambassadors for Augusta," Dickerson said.
The event itself costs $300,000 to put on. Almost half of that goes to the winner of the race. Nine thousand of that is for security alone.
The races start on Saturday and gates open at 8 a.m.
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