Over the past few months, members of the DePue Men’s Club discussed what to do about the Lake DePue Pro National Championship Boat Races amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, club and race officials made the decision to cancel this year’s races.
“With everything going on with COVID-19, that was a big concern,” said race chairman Paul Bosnich Jr. “Our biggest thing was liability. We didn’t know if we would be able to get a state liquor license or if the health department would let us open our (food) stands. Plus, we were concerned about the safety of people.
“We hated to cancel, but we thought it was in the best interest for everybody.”
DePue Men’s Club president Steve Solorio called the decision tough but inevitable in a news release issued by the U.S. Title Series.
“Many, if not all, of our area festivals have already canceled,” the release said. “For everyone’s health and safety as well as the club’s financial responsibility, it’s the right decision. We expect to come back strong next year.”
Bosnich Jr. said canceling the event, which draws racers and fans from around the country, is a blow to the men’s club and the community.
“It’s a big impact on DePue,” Bosnich Jr. said. “The school system benefits from the profits. We donate a lot to the classroom, the basketball team and stuff like that. The taverns in town and Casey’s lose valuable income. The surrounding area with hotels lose out on revenue.”
The races, which begin on a Wednesday with testing and run through a Sunday, serve as a homecoming for DePue residents, with events surrounding the races such as a 5K, reunions, beer gardens and live entertainment.
“Everybody is devastated by what is happening,” Bosnich Jr. said. “We didn’t want to cancel, but it’s in everybody’s best interest. There was a big reunion planned with (multiple) classes. There are people who come back in town who haven’t been back in years. There are a lot of people who you don’t see during the year who you do see during the races. Sadly, that will be missed.
“We’re going to work for next year and put on a show for the fans in 2021.”