ELKHART — Crowds began gathering along orange fencing and in riverfront parks Friday afternoon for the start of games, music, food, fireworks and other festivities all centered around USAC-sanctioned go-kart racing.
Thousands were expected to attend the 2019 Thor Industries Elkhart Riverwalk Grand Prix – not just for racing but for the other activies spread across two days in downtown Elkhart.
Bob Martin, president and chief executive officer of Thor Industries and an Elkhart native, remembers the excitement he felt as a youngster coming downtown for the races. It was a longstanding and popular tradition in the community, which had been suspended until recently. This is the third year racing has resumed, accompanied by a festival-like atmosphere along the riverfront.
“This is a big day for Elkhart,” Martin said. “It’s been fun watching it evolve. Every year it gets just a little bigger. It’s always a lot of fun.”
A circular track crosses the Elkhart River twice, with the start/finish line at High Street and Waterfall Drive.
Country music performer Clayton Anderson, a Hoosier native and the scheduled headliner Saturday night, was in town Friday to take in the racing and the festivities.
“Music and racing just kind of go hand in hand,” Anderson said. “This community is so excited about this event, and that gets you excited as a performer.”
All the activities Friday and Saturday are free to the public, including the four concerts and the fireworks.
Mayor Tim Neese kicked off the Grand Prix by waving a green flag and giving racers a chance try the course.
Events on Saturday begin at 9 a.m. with the start of cornhole tournament. Racing begins at 10 a.m. The day ends with the fireworks show at 10 p.m.