Rumble in the Hills event draws crowds to Highland County’s Rocky Fork Lake


Boat races ‘went awesome;’ coordinators plan bigger, better event

By Jeff Gilliland - jgilliland@timesgazette.com



Racers compete Saturday afternoon on Rocky Fork Lake during the Rumble in the Hills power boat races.

Racers compete Saturday afternoon on Rocky Fork Lake during the Rumble in the Hills power boat races.


Jeff Gilliland | The Times-Gazette

Despite just two weeks notice, an estimated 2,000 spectators turned out Saturday and Sunday when power boat racing returned at Rocky Fork State Park — and event coordinator Mike McGuire said if things work out like planned next year, the sky is the limit for Rumble in the Hills.

“It went awesome,” McGuire said Monday. “Every single person I talked to said it was great and better than in past years. Even with the big storm that came through Saturday, everyone recovered and we got all the races in. Obviously, people scrambled when that storm came through, but people were packed in all the way from McCoppin Mill Road to the pit area both days.”

It was the first time power boat races were held at Rocky Fork Lake since 2014. Races had been held 25 of 30 years at the lake before that, with more than 25 world records set.

The races are contested around two islands on the lake’s east side, which breaks up the wake left by the boats and allows them to run faster than otherwise might be possible. It is the chance of breaking records that draws racers to the lake.

McGuire said about 50 boats raced this year.

“All the racers are committed,” McGuire said. “They said they will promote it and we plan to double the number of boats here next year.”

McGuire said Jim Sechler, the leader of the American Power Boat Association, was at the races this year and sent out a group email Monday to several people involved in boat racing. McGuire said Sechler has set world records on Rocky Fork in the past.

According to McGuire, the email said, “I can honestly say that in over 20 years of attending and putting on these type of events, I have NEVER worked with such a professional and dedicated team willing to help us make the event a success … Again, thank you so much for all your support. I really hope we can continue working together to make this an annual event.”

The event was announced to the public just two weeks before it was held, and McGuire said it was a community effort that allowed organizers to pull the races off successfully.

As an example, he said a man from Australia, who travels to the United States in the summers to race boats, broke a hitch on his trailer and would have been stranded, if it hadn’t been for McGuire’s father, Joey McGuire, who went to the radio station that was broadcasting the event and had them announce that the man needed help. Another person who heard the announcement was able to come and fix the trailer, Mike McGuire said.

Races will likely be held the third weekend in July for the foreseeable future, McGuire said, adding that a fireworks show held Saturday night will return next year, and organizers hope to bring in more food vendors and flea market-type booths.

He also said the race committee is exploring ideas – like a putting and chipping contest – to fill the one-hour gap each day when the pit crews get an hour break to eat, and from the time races end on Saturday until the fireworks.

One day, he said, the committee hopes to have as many vendors as the Fall Festival of Leaves held the third weekend each October in Bainbridge.

“It was just a total feel good story. All the way around it was really cool,” McGuire said about the races’ return. “Tell everybody to hold onto their hats because we’re working on some really cool stuff for next year. We have several things in the works and if just some of them happen, it will be really cool.”

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or jgilliland@timesgazette.com.

Racers compete Saturday afternoon on Rocky Fork Lake during the Rumble in the Hills power boat races.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2018/07/web1_Rumble-pic-1-1.jpgRacers compete Saturday afternoon on Rocky Fork Lake during the Rumble in the Hills power boat races. Jeff Gilliland | The Times-Gazette
Boat races ‘went awesome;’ coordinators plan bigger, better event

By Jeff Gilliland

jgilliland@timesgazette.com