Augusta Southern Nationals brings big business

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News 12 at 6:00, July 19, 2008

Augusta, Ga. --- Business is booming in downtown Augusta. And Meg Seay knows all about it.

"A lot of appetizers and a lot of drinking," Meg Seay said.

She works at Beamies Restaurant and Oyster Bar and says they've been packed every night and even compares their business this weekend to Saint Patricks Day.

"We get more money. I mean, the more people that come in and spend money, the more money that we get," Seay said.

And it's all thanks to the Augusta Southern Nationals dragboat races. It's a family event on the Savannah River. The boats go up to 250 miles per hour in just 4.8 seconds. Last year 25,000 people came to the race and they're expecting more this year.

"We're the only dragboat sponsored event, East of the Mississippi right now. Folks that like to watch dragboat racing, this is the sight on the East Coast to come to," Dayton Sherrouse said.

70 racing teams are in town, representing 25 states and Canada. And they're spending money in Augusta, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants.

"Came in last night, we went out to the bars downtown, and then we're going to be hanging out here this weekend," Katie Viscelli said.

Thousands of spectators, all in the Garden City to get a glimpse of the fast paced action.

"You know, there's a lot of satisfaction trying to put on a good event for the city," Sherrouse said.

A good event that brings people and money to Augusta. And for Meg, this weekend's race makes all the difference.

"It makes up for the slow nights that we have. All these places down here are so seasonal. Big nights like this are a money-making night. And a lot of restaurants depend on that," Seay said.

Today was qualifications and Sunday will be eliminations. Gates open at 8:00 Sunday morning. And they'll start racing between 9 and 10.

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