GARDINER — Ever since the Great Race cruised through Ogunquit in 2014, Peter Prescott has been working to bring it to central Maine, and this year he has succeeded.

The annual vintage car road rally, which will be run during the last week of June, is scheduled to make a stop in Gardiner, coinciding with the region’s Whatever Festival, and preparations are now underway.

“Most people don’t believe it, but there will be thousands of people,” Prescott said.

The race annually draws more than 500 people who make up the 120 teams — driver, navigator, support team and truck — but it also draws crowds of thousands of people to the locations where the racers stop for the day.

That’s where the planning comes in. Gardiner Main Street and the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce have already started working out the logistics.

“As the host city, we’re welcoming them and showing them what our communities are all about,” Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street.


Before the race arrives, the Classic Cruise-in, the weekly classic car event in Gardiner, will bring a select number of cars in to town.

When the cars arrive at 5 p.m., on June 26, they’ll park on Water Street in downtown Gardiner, which will be closed to other traffic from the U.S. Post Office to the Gardiner Public Library, Wright said.

Under the rules of the race, the cars have to stay there for at least two hours.

“What draws the people are the cars,” Prescott said.

Food trucks will be on hand to feed the crowds and Johnson Hall will put on an early evening show under a tent at the Waterfront Park.

“It’s going to be spectacle,” Wright said. Host communities have been told to expect 4,000 visitors.


Although it’s not yet final, Katie Doherty, president of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said organizers are hoping to have fireworks that evening.

To accommodate the crowds, shuttle buses will be available to ferry residents and support teams from remote parking lots to downtown Gardiner.

When they are done for the night, the cars, their teams and their support staff will head to Augusta for the night. Doherty said visitors will stay at five hotels in Augusta.

The race will pick up from there the next day.

This year’s route will take drivers on a course that starts in Buffalo, across upstate New York and through Vermont to Burlington. From there, the course goes east to Mount Washington and from there across Maine to Gardiner. From there, contestants will leave from Augusta and head up to Bangor, and then down to Bar Harbor. The final legs of the trip will take drivers across the Canadian border into Saint John and Moncton, New Brunswick and then over to Nova Scotia, with stops in Truro and Dartmouth before the rally concludes in Halifax.

Prescott, the chief executive office of E.J. Prescott in Gardiner, has been a fan of the competitive controlled-speed endurance rally since he first learned about it more than two decades ago at an Arizona auto auction.


In 2014, when the race, which had undergone a reorganization several years before, started in Ogunquit, he and his team, the Maine Boyz, signed up.

Prescott also owns PEP Classic Car Co., and the team drove one of his cars, a 1948 deep green Ford sedan emblazoned with a lobster.

While the race started in Maine, it left the state almost immediately. Prescott said no one got to see the state on that trip, but he predicts that racers and their support staff will return to the state for vacations in the future.

Organizers have secured two major sponsors at the $5,000 level to underwrite the costs — E.J. Prescott and Cross Insurance; they are looking for three more major sponsors as well as others at lower levels as well as contributions for swag bags for race participants.

They are also looking for volunteers to help on the day of the event.

“We’re excited for the economic impact on central Maine,” Doherty said. “It’s not just going to be Gardiner, it’s going to be the hotels, the restaurants and the shopping.”


“We definitely view this as a boon for central Maine and really the whole state of Maine,” Wright said.

In addition to the awards given to race participants, each of the communities that host overnight stays are in competition for a trophy.

“Gardiner is going to win the best stop,” Doherty said. “We have already set that goal in our committee. We want to give them their best Maine experience.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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