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63rd Annual Peoria Grand National TT headlines a big weekend

The familiar and loud Vroom! Vroom! that can belong only to motorcycles will permeate the air surrounding Peoria this weekend for the 63rd annual Grand National TT Races at the Peoria Motorcycle Club race park in Bartonville.

The motorcycle races will culminate a busy weekend, with the annual Parade of Motorcycles getting things started Saturday morning and a concert featuring rocker Ted Nugent scheduled on Peoria's riverfront Saturday night.

Another event of the two-wheeled variety is set for downtown Morton on Saturday, with the Morton Community Bank Cycling Classic.

It will be a fruitful weekend for local coffers, said Bob Marx, president of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We're talking upwards of 20,000 people with all the events – the TT race, the music festival with Ted Nugent, the bike racers in Morton. That's probably low because we tend to estimate conservatively. It will be busy, a very good busy," Marx said.

He said the Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates those attending the events will spend an average of $75 a day for food and drink, which he said may also be conservative.

The weekend, Marx added, will also be loud. "Noise will definitely be the key word this weekend with thousands of motorcycles and the music fest. For us, it will be a good noise," he said.

The Peoria Grand National TT is the oldest continuous dirt race in the world, said Bert Sanders, race director for the motorcycle club which this year celebrates its 80th anniversary.

Sanders, in his 28th year of involvement, said it has long been a special event not only because it is the largest single-day sporting event in Peoria each year, but because of what it means to the area.

"Really, the biggest thing we sell every year is the atmosphere. That starts with the race park itself, which we treat like a park because we mow it year-round so it's a nice place for race goers to be able to sit on the grass and watch the races. Also, we keep it family friendly and affordable.

"It's a good atmosphere and a fun time for everyone. I'd bet half the people, when they leave here, don't even know who won or even care. But they'll tell you they reconnected with some old friends or made new ones and just had a good time while they were here. That's what we want," Sanders said.

He noted the Peoria Motorcycle Club once surveyed race attendees and learned 92 percent of them had attended at least once before. "It's got to be good or else they wouldn't keep coming back," he said.

Sanders said the Peoria races' average more than 15,000 in attendance each year, with the recorded high being about 19,500 in 1998, the 50th anniversary of the event. He estimated it will generate about $1.5 million revenue for the area economy.

Sanders said he did not know the average number of motorcycles that come to Peoria for the event, but said last year there was more than 1,700 that drove in the Saturday morning parade.

"This thing really has a life of its own," Sanders said.

He added he believes the popularity of the race will remain strong in the foreseeable future, "It doesn't seem to be fading. We've got a lot of new riders the last few years," he said.

One thing that makes it different than flat track or road races is that in TT races there must be at least one right turn and one left turn and one jump on the race course.

TT, Sanders said, stands for Tourist Trophy, named for a European motorcycle race series that allowed so-called "tourists" to participate.

Race tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free with a paid adult admission. Advance tickets can be purchased at most motorcycle dealerships, including Walter Bros. Harley-Davidson, Grayboy Motorsports and other area bike shops.

Gates open at 8 a.m., with practice starting at 10:30 a.m. Opening ceremonies, including honoring Chris Carr for having one of the greatest careers in championship racing history, will be at 1:30 p.m. The first race begins at 2 p.m., with the final championship race starting about 3:30 p.m.

Other events scheduled for the weekend include:

• An all-star dirt track race at 7 p.m. Friday at Peoria Speedway, 3520 W. Farmington Road. Admission is $15 for adults; $13 for seniors age 60 and over; $5 for children ages 8-15; and free for children 7 and under.

• The Motorcycle Parade for Charity on Saturday starts at 10 a.m. It is a 10-mile trek from the PMC race park to the Peoria Riverfront. Money raised from the $15 fee to participate in the parade goes to the Downed Riders Association, which helps pay medical expenses for professional motorcycle racers that have been injured during stunts and performances.

• On the riverfront there will be several live music acts performing throughout the day, with Ted Nugent scheduled to play at 10 p.m. There also will be stunt show exhibits, a swap meet, antique and custom bike shows, leather goods vendors, and food and drink vendors. Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Tickets are available at all area Co-Op Records locations, the Peoria Riverfront Visitors Center, participating motorcycle dealers and shops, and online at etix.com.

In Morton on Saturday bicycle riders in 11 different age and gender categories will participate in the Morton Community Bank Classic. Races are from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Children ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 9 will compete at 12:10 p.m. The premiere event is at 4 p.m. "I expect some of the fastest cyclists in the Midwest to be at that race," said Kevin Lantz, event promoter and president of the Peoria Bicycle Club.

The race course is three-fourths of a mile and runs along Main and Jefferson streets, First Avenue and Wick Street. The shortest race is 30 minutes; the longest is 75 minutes.

Besides the road races, there will be an art show and arts and craft show. Several Morton restaurants will sell food near the course.

The annual event had been held in Downtown Peoria for 23 years and was called the Proctor Cycling Classic until Proctor Hospital ended its sponsorship after the 2009 race. There was no sponsor last year and the race was simply called the Peoria Cycling Classic.



About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).