Organizers foresee good future for "Thunder on the Lake"

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Races got underway Saturday in the first ever Mississippi Gulf Coast Thunder on the Lake in Gulfport. Organizers say they hope this is also the start of a major annual tourism draw for our area.

The amazing stunts mesmerized James Estrada who sat watching with his mom and dad and brother. He says Thunder on the Lake is the kind of event the whole family can get excited about.

"Because of the racing and the free style," said Estrada. "And it's fun to watch them."

The races included participants of all skill levels. Some veteran watercross competitors say they're impressed by how well this first time event was put together.

Claude Clayton of Tupelo said, "I think it's really good. It's got a lot of potential. Any race site, you kind of have the first year blues of trying to figure out logistically the best way to make things happen."

Clayton says he doesn't often get to compete in his home state.

"We've had races in Mississippi in the past, but this year this has been the only race in Mississippi that has been a sanctioned event," Clayton said. "So it's really nice since I'm from Mississippi. It's really nice to be able to race in my home state for some of my friends and family."

Organizers say Thunder on the Lake is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association, so it has drawn competitors from across the country.

Scott Ratcliff of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Sports Commission said the group's goal was to create a fun and entertaining event not already being offered on the Mississippi Coast using the coast's natural resource, the water.

"We want to be able to think outside the box a little bit and bring some unique events," said Ratclif.

Organizers say the event is not a huge money maker now, but that could change in the years to come.

"For us to have only have had 90 days to put this together, do it, and bring the level of competition that we've got on this lake right now and the riders that we've got, is really phenomenal, Ratcliff said. "If we have a chance for next year to be able to promote it and get early on on the APBA schedule, then we should really see a significant climb. We've even looked at the possibility of making this a national tour stop for next year."

The races continue Sunday starting at 10 a.m. with the best view from the Dock Restaurant in Gulfport.

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