EDITOR'S NOTE: To see a photo gallery of the event, click here .
The city of Pekin's inaugural Bathtub Races was fun for spectators, racers and businesses alike Friday, with at least one city official hoping to have an even better event next year.
Eleven vessels designed and built by Pekinites and sponsored by various local businesses and city officials participated in races down the 400 block of Court Street Friday afternoon and evening. Designs ranged from the Pekin Police Department’s entry fitted with gumball lights and a siren to City Clerk Sue McMillan’s rolling file cabinet fitted with an overflow of paperwork to the Pekin Bus Department’s scaled-down school bus.
“I entered a bathtub because I thought it would be fun and because I thought it would bring a lot of people downtown,” said Tom West, owner of the West Dublin Pub. “I just opened the West Dublin Pub, and I saw a chance to get some free advertising. Mostly, though, I did it for fun.”
West enjoyed the pre-race banter between competitors but expressed some concern that the Pekin Police Department’s bathtub would pull over his own for speeding.
The contestants raced in two-team heats, with each team consisting of a driver who pushed the vehicle and a rider who steered it. The first race was an exhibition in which Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman outpaced Pekin Mayor John McCabe.
Molly Springer of Pekin attended the event with an idea of studying bathtub designs and possibly forming a team for future races.
“I don’t know what kind of tub my team would race,” she said. “Obviously, we would want a very fast one. I came to check out the tubs that were racing tonight. I hope these races take hold in Pekin and that there will be more of them.”
There were food and beverage vendors, a face-painting table and a balloon art table at the event. Between races, volunteers sold 50/50 raffle tickets, and a crew from the Peoria radio station 104.9 the Wolf provided a running commentary. For Hailey Hays, 10, the highlights of the event, other than watching the races themselves, were the face-painting table and the Unique Twist balloon art.
“I really liked seeing what different kinds of tubs people brought to race in,” she said. “I hope they do this again next year.”
Because a series of races in downtown Pekin have the potential benefit of promoting local businesses, it is safe to assume that the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce would have had a vested interest in the event. Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Fleming demonstrated the body’s commitment to helping ensure the success of the races by volunteering to sell 50/50 tickets.
“It’s been a great crowd down here, and it looks like people have been enjoying themselves,” he said. “I hope the event grows from this first one. It’s a free night of entertainment for all ages."