A banner hangs across Water Street in Gardiner, where the 2024 Hemmings Motor News Great Race is to wrap up Sunday. The nine-day, rally-style race began Saturday in Owensburg, Kentucky, and is traveling 2,300 miles to Maine. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

GARDINER  — In less than a week, the streets of downtown Gardiner are expected to be alive with vintage and antique vehicles, automobile lovers and anyone else who wants to be on hand for the festivities when the 2024 Hemmings Motor News Great Race ends its nine-day, 2,300-mile journey.

About 140 race teams from all over the country and across the world — competing in vintage and antique cars — set off Saturday from Owensboro, Kentucky, and are traveling northeast from western Kentucky across 13 states to reach the finish line Sunday in Gardiner.

“It’s unbelievable,” Peter Prescott said. “Almost every day people are volunteering.”

For more than year, Prescott and officials from the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, Gardiner city government, the Gardiner-area school district, Gardiner Main Street and others have been meeting to put all the pieces together to make the event a success.

That has included coordinating remote parking and shuttle buses; putting together a map and information on local restaurants, shops and arts and cultural events for visitors; and reserving rooms for participants a year in advance at six hotels in Augusta.

It has also meant coordinating and planning for the race’s route that will take competitors throughout central Maine.


“A cool thing is that Cushnoc (Brewing Co.) created a Great Race Finish Line beer,” Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said. “They’ll be selling their beer for the stop, and people can get it at Cushnoc that weekend as well.”

Before the race cars cross the finish line, antique and vintage cars from the Gardiner Waterfront Cruise In are expected to parade down Water Street. The first racers, led by the 10 cars competing from Maine, are expected to cross the finish line at about 2 p.m., and the winner is expected to be announced at the finish line at about 4:30 p.m.

Johnson Hall Opera House, which opened earlier this year after a nearly $10 million renovation, is to be open for tours during the day. A celebration has been organized at Waterfront Park, including food trucks, the Gardiner Showcase and live music from the Gem Tones on Sunday for spectators and race participants, and teams will be feted with a lobster dinner at a private event.

And even with the many volunteers who have signed up to help, organizers said they are looking for more people to provide directions and help at events along the waterfront.

People check out the Hemmings Motor News Great Race vehicles on display at the intersection of Water and Church streets as the race stops in Gardiner in 2018. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Details about the event and information about the remote parking lots can be found on the Great Race 2024 Facebook event page.

For about a decade, Prescott, who is the head of the Gardiner-based Everett J. Prescott Inc., and has been collecting cars for decades, has been a fan of the rally-style race, competing some years in his 1948 Ford sedan emblazoned with a lobster, and sending a team to compete in that car in others. In all of those years, the team has handed out swag bags filled with Maine-themed items to stir interest in the state.


In 2018, Prescott worked to make Gardiner an overnight stop in the race that started in Buffalo, New York. To welcome race participants, their support teams and other visitors, Gardiner organized food trucks and live music at Waterfront Park, before competitors headed off to Augusta to spend the night. The next morning, they left Maine’s capital city to drive the final legs that would take them to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The central Maine stop was voted by race participants the best stop of the year.

This year, it is the finish line.

Doherty said the 2024 race has drawn the most competitors ever.

“Jeff Stumb, the executive director for the Great Race, says it’s because of the location and the stop and them finishing the last three days in Maine, so that’s pretty cool,”  she said.

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart said organizers are glad to have people visit the city for the first time, and to welcome back those who have visited before.

“I’m really hoping this can be a full community celebration,” Hart said, adding she hopes people will return to Gardiner to shop, dine, work or live.

“This is new for Gardiner,” she said. “People are coming from all over the country and all over the world for this.”

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