Dragboats zoom through local economy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2003

The water may have been a bit too rocky, and the wind may have picked up too much gust for J.R. Suttles to be testing his prop on a lake near Jackson, Miss. Caught in the midst of a dragboat points race, though, Suttles needed to work on his boat.

As he reached his peak speed, the wind and a rough wave combined to send Suttles’ boat somewhere it shouldn’t have been.

The dragboat Suttles used to get in the heat of a points race in the Outboard Dragboat Association became little more than useless pieces of metal. Heading into this weekend, Suttles finally has his boat back together and his will be one of nearly 100 boats to compete in races that begin Saturday at noon.

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Like it or not, one of the most exciting parts of any racing circuit are the high-speeds and high degrees of danger. Whether it’s NASCAR or the OBDA, Suttles believes local people will enjoy watching the dragboat races on Saturday and Sunday.

C.J. Davis, another local person who drives on the same team as Suttles, also will be part of the racing weekend. And like Suttles, Davis believes people will love what they see at the city landing.

While fast boats will enthrall most spectators, both Davis and Suttles say there’s another reason local people will enjoy the drag racing.

Davis said the people on the OBDA circuit make the difference in this kind of racing. And as for autographs, they’re actually encouraged.

While both Davis and Suttles expect a good turnout in Demopolis, the organization that stands to win the most is the area Chamber of Commerce. The money raised from this event &045;&045; admission is $5 per day for adults &045;&045; will help fund Christmas on the River in five months.

Jim Parr, who is heading the chamber committee that has helped organize this weekend’s event, said this new event for Demopolis could become an annual event that brings thousands of people to the area.

According to Suttles, the races will be set up so that spectators have numerous options to see the races. The finish line, he said, will be near the city landing.

Races begin, both Saturday and Sunday, at noon and will conclude around 6 p.m.