It was off to the races, whether on the lake or at the tracks, and where there are races, there are excuses for parties.
THE sun was out and the breeze was great. The weather was clear for the start of the 85th annual Mills Trophy Race - the 101st year since its inception - presented by the Toledo Yacht Club and Storm Trysail Club Friday night, starting at the Toledo Harbor Light on Lake Erie.
But things changed suddenly when a storm kicked up, rocking the smooth sailing into a fast-paced journey for some and a capsizing experience for others.
The adventure didn't deter the die-hard sailors, who made it through the night to Put-in-Bay, the destination. That's where the Mills Sundowner Party and Beer Blast at the Crescent Tavern awaited Saturday, followed by a Mills Breakfast Buffet Sunday at Put-in-Bay Yacht Club before the flag presentation and champagne celebration.
Tales were told, some getting bigger as the weekend progressed, especially for the big winner of the race, Steven Attard of Temperance, and his Viva Las Vegas crew, along with all of the other winners.
An award just for fun was a "race" to be the first power-andsail cruising entry to dock at the bay plus buy the first drink at the Round House.
But there was more to the race than the race itself. There was the annual Thursday night party welcoming the skippers and their crews. Each time a boat arrived for the next day's race, the cannon boomed a blast that shivered many a timber.
Boats - both sail and power - were adorned with colorful burgees that blew in the breeze. Bagpipe players marched through the crowd.
The party, hosted by Toledo Yacht Club, lures nearly 1,300 folks from the racers and their families and friends to wannabes, deck lizards, and dock dudes there for a good time. It is the unofficial kick off to summer. The event has tamed down over the years, but it still is always a fun time.
Once held on the lawn by the boats, the party is now in the parking lot with a giant tent. This year the Danger Brothers band was the draw, along with plenty of beer, soft drinks, food vendors, and a BBQ dinner that many preferred to eat indoors.
The party is expected to net about $7,000 when the totals are in, said Comm. Dave Kiel. The proceeds will go toward club renovations and restorations, he said.
The main action was outside, keeping the stately club for the racers' registration. That's where one could check out the giant, sparkling silver trophy that holds the names of the winners, including the first back in 1907, Shark, skippered by George Craig. All trophies looked especially nice because Mary Lou Gabel polished them for the occasion.
Marv Burke proudly sported the flag dinner jacket handed down to him by the late Capt. Eddie Smyth of Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, a three-time Mills winner. Mr. Burke happily bragged, "I'm living the American Dream. I'm retired, I sail all season, and my wife works."
Honorary chairman Joe Henry, there with his wife, Jeanette, was busy visiting with everyone.
Mr. Henry, who was in his first Mills race in 1958, joked that he started sailing as a young boy on the O.P.M. program: Other People's Money. He was a dock hand who was given the opportunity to crew. The rest is history.
While revelers were busy laughing and dancing, many volunteers were busy with last-minute details, including Mills Trophy Race General Chairman Ron Soka and his wife, Kaye, of Toledo Yacht Club, who took time out to join the ranks of the sailors in the race Friday night.
Don Wood, the jack-of-all-trades who was chairman of the race, starting boat, flags presentation, and major sponsorships, was there, along with committee chairmen Bob Filiatrault, Terry Ekstedt, Jim Balogh, Wayne Hastings, Jack Bernard, Dick Anderson, Ron Gabel, Bill Michael, Paul Janowiecki, John and Carla Laver, Becky Vincent, Barb Chauvin, and Tom Kaintz, who were assisted by many others. All the details were behind the scenes: There are committees for computer operations, judges and timers, protest, rating, awards, photos, docks, registration, trophies, the program, security, food, and much, much more. All smiles were TYC Commodore Kiel and Storm Trysail Comm. John Fisher.
Wednesday night more than 40 trophies were presented to the winners of the 2007 Mills Trophy Race during a dinner at TYC. Now the 2008 winners will await their honors next year. A week prior to the race was the Mills Masters Dinner for all past winners.
WIN, place, show. The 140th Belmont Stakes Saturday was a great excuse for a party, especially for Belmont Country Club.
Fresh and cool looking, green-and-white checked covered tables held bouquets of white carnations, the official flower of Belmont Stakes. Adding to the tradition, the official Belmont Breeze was served. While it's a bit potent, the concoction is a refreshing blend of whiskey, cream sherry, lemon juice, syrup, sweet and sour mix, orange juice, cranberry juice, and lemon-lime soda. Party-goers sipped and nibbled on the patio overlooking the golf course, while partaking in the horse-race style, mini golf contest.
Just in time for the big race, everyone gathered back indoors to see if their pick was the winner. And they're off! The winner was Da' Tara, spoiling Big Brown's chance to win the Triple Crown. Several folks had the right pick, including Dave Wise, there with Cary Kutnyak. Teresa Wallace of Columbus was a winner, while her husband, Jim, who is originally from Alabama, claims his fame as a distant relative of the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace. They were visiting family as were Patty and Elza Harmon, also of Columbus, who were winners too.
The scores tallied and the prizes distributed by Rob Johnston, there with his wife, Melinda, the evening progressed with, of course, a steak dinner.
In on the action were Steve and Jane Hopkins, Sarge and Sue Purewal, and Jill and Ron Michel, Fred and Nita Harrington, Tom and Gwen Thibert, Jacque and Rick Yocum, Steve and Linda Stanford, Sue and Doug Neckers, Trina and Michael McGivern, and president Bill Ammon and his wife, Marnie.
ALSO on the race circuit, were Don and Mary Ellen Wedding, who invited about 30 guests to the Wedding family's Images Systems Technology offices on Bancroft Street for a party Saturday afternoon to watch the Belmont Stakes race on large-screen television.
The hors d'oeuvres table included salmon, cheeses, and fresh fruit, and Mr. Wedding, who is a Louisville native and bourbon aficionado, gave a presentation on the spirits and offered a bourbon tasting.
Most of those attending chose Big Brown to win, and went home disappointed, but a few astute guests picked Denis of Cork to place and went home happier. Among the guests were Peter Silverman, Barb Snavely, John Pettiford, Spencer Luster, Ralph Cornish, Anna Hunter, Mike Karabin, Mark Wagoner, and Bus Roberts.
Blade staff writer Sue Brickey contributed to this report.