Seven months after more than 100 antique and vintage cars rolled through central Maine, the man behind the push to bring the Great Race to the region is being recognized for his work.

Chief Executive Officer Peter Prescott answers questions during an interview on Feb. 11, 2016, at E.J. Prescott headquarters in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

Peter Prescott, chief executive officer of E.J. Prescott in Gardiner, will be honored Jan. 25 by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce with its Special Service Award at its Kenney Awards at the Augusta Civic Center.

The award is given to a person or organization showing exemplary leadership over the previous two years and is recognized for long-term commitment to the community. It is given when a person or organization deserves special recognition for extraordinary effort; it is not an annual award.

“Nobody can do anything by themselves,” Prescott said from his office recently. “You need a team.”

In that vein, he said he’ll accept the award for all the people who spent months in planning and logistics to make that day a success.

The Great Race is a competitive controlled-speed endurance road rally on public highways for antique, vintage and collector cars that takes drivers through a different region of the country each year.

In 2018, the race started in Buffalo, New York, and ended in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two stops were scheduled in Maine. The first was in Gardiner/Augusta —where cars arrived for the end of that day’s leg to crowds and a celebration at Waterfront Park with a clambake, concert and fireworks — and Augusta, where drivers and teams spent the night and departed from the following day. The second was in Bar Harbor.

Estimates of attendance range from 5,000 to 7,000.

“It was a huge plus for the city,” said Thom Harnett, who served as mayor of Gardiner for six years before being elected to the state House of Representatives in November 2018.

The event drew together organizations from across the region to make it happen, including the Boys and Girls Club of Kennebec Valley, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gardiner Main Street.

“Cars came here (Gardiner) one night and left the next day from Augusta,” Harnett said. “It showcased how this Kennebec River corridor can act together for joint economic development. Peter was the genesis for that. That’s how you get things done. You have someone who has a real enthusiasm for it.”

For its efforts, Gardiner was voted best overnight city.

While the influx of people to Gardiner for the race may not have resulted in a bump for local business on that day, Harnett said, the city is now on the radar of people who had not been there before.

Peter Prescott talks about his previous runs in the The Great Race during an interview on Nov. 8, 2017, in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

The Great Race isn’t Prescott’s only interest.

He has been a supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of Kennebec Valley, which provides programing for children and youth in southern Kennebec County as well as child care.

Prescott was also behind the building and rebuilding of the Kennebec Ice Rink on Whitten Road in Hallowell, now known as the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, after a heavy snow load caused its roof to collapse in 2011.

At the end of 2018, Prescott underwrote the cost of sending 850 students in the Gardiner-area school district to see “The Polar Express” at Johnson Hall in downtown Gardiner.

“We had one rule,” Prescott said. “We weren’t going to pick and choose. We were going to take everybody who was allowed to go by their parents. Those kids will never forget that.”

“They all came, even though school was canceled one day,” said Mike Miclon, artistic executive director of Johnson Hall. “I had one little girl tell me she had never been to a movie before that.”

Prescott said it’s important for everyone to do what they can afford to keep a community together.

“We have a problem in this state,” he said. “Kids are growing up and moving out of state.”

Keeping them here requires strong communities.

And that’s what he saw in the planning phase of the Great Race’s Gardiner stop. More people showed up at each meeting, wanting to volunteer and contribute.

“We need the people to work together,” Prescott said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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