Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix: Everything you need to know

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(Photo Supplied/Vala Marketing)

The Gateway Mile is home to dozens of incredible shops and restaurants — and incredible events like the Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix. Plan your next weekend at GatewayMile.com.

By: The Gateway Mile

After a 20-year hiatus, go-karts will return to downtown Elkhart for the Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix on Aug. 11-13.

Whether you want to get in on a race or just watch, here’s everything you need to know before you head to the Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WHEN?

FRIDAY

The festivities kick off with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. at the track. Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese will cut the ribbon on the race track, Kevin Miller, CEO of United States Auto Club, said. Then kids will race around the track on Big Wheels trikes. Local bands JR Clark and the All-Star Blues Mob and Sideways will perform at 6 and 8 p.m., respectively.

SATURDAY

Races will begin in the morning by 9 a.m., if not earlier, Miller said. More than 100 racers are expected to be racing in various classes, and about 10 to 20 cars will be on the track at any one time. Karts will stop at 1 p.m. for an opening ceremony and the National Anthem will be sung. The endurance race begins at 3 p.m. At 5 p.m., Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese faces off against South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman and Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter for the Mayoral Challenge race.

After that will be the Celebrity Race, featuring USAC driver and previous Elkhart Grand Prix winner Levi Jones, two Indy Car drivers, Jason Lee and Kluck of 103.9 The Bear, area business owners and local media personalities like MNC’s Mark McGill and ESPN 102.7’s Pat Doherty.

Saturday night will end with more races and performances by The Incredible Johnsons at 6:30 p.m. and KISS Resurrection, a KISS cover band, at 8 p.m.

SUNDAY

Sunday will continue with final races beginning by 9 a.m., Miller said. The final awards ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

SOUNDS AWESOME. WHERE WILL THE TRACK BE?

The track will go along Waterfall Drive, up Elkhart Avenue, wind through NIBCO Parkway near NIBCO Water and Ice Park, onto Jackson Boulevard and then back to Waterfall. It’s a 0.6 mile loop around the riverwalk and crosses the river twice.

COOL. I WANT TO RACE!

Luckily, there’s still time to sign up until the day before the races begin. There are a few requirements and you’ll need to pay an entry fee. Check out USA Karting’s website for details and sign up on www.KartEntry.com.

I’D RATHER JUST WATCH.

That’s totally fine! Watching is free and there will be a lot of space watch the races along Waterfall Drive and in Elkhart’s City Center Park area.

IS THIS A FAMILY-FRIENDLY EVENT?

Absolutely! Kids love races. There will also be a Kids Zone at NIBCO Water and Ice Park that will open at 10 a.m. Saturday. The area will include a smaller kids track around the skating rink as well as inflatable bounce houses and music.

ARE THERE OTHER THINGS TO DO BESIDES WATCH GO-KART RACES?

Yes, there are a ton of other things to do. A racing reception at 8 p.m. Friday at McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk will also be open to the public, Miller said. Food trucks and vendors and a beer garden will be set up in Central Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A NASCAR truck display and other vendor displays will also be set up in Central Park. There will be live music on Friday and Saturday nights in downtown Elkhart open to everyone.

WHERE CAN I PARK?

There are a lot of places to park downtown on Main Street, Second Street and Third Street. City parking lots will be open throughout the weekend.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE IT’S GOING TO BE HUGE!

That’s the plan! The event won’t be like the race that many Elkhartans remember — it should be better.

“This will be the best organized street race in America, ever,” Miller said.

USAC sanctions more than 800 racing events a year. As CEO, Miller can’t attend all of them, but he will be in Elkhart to oversee Grand Prix weekend.

“I was told that when (Neese) was running for mayor, that he decided this was an important thing to bring back to the city. I feel strongly that if he’s put this much emphasis on it, it’s important to bring back to Elkhart,” Miller said. He ordered special signing and plans to put up fencing along the race track, instead of the hay bales seen at many street racing events. Sponsors and Elkhart residents are excited about the event, and that makes Miller excited too.

“We’re putting a lot of energy in this,” he said. “We want to re-establish this event as something Elkhart can build on.”

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

At any of these places:

The Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix is one of the many awesome events happening along the Gateway Mile in downtown Elkhart all summer long. Check out the full calendar at GatewayMile.com!

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