Wildfire smoke in NJ leads to major weekend event cancellation
🔴 The Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix brings 10,000 people to the shore on race day
🔴 Uncertainty over weekend smoke contributed to the decision to cancel
🔴 The Grand Prix could still happen later in the summer
POINT PLEASANT BEACH — The smoke-filled air caused by Canadian wildfires has claimed a major shore event.
The Offshore Powerboat Association pulled the plug on the Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix less than a day before the start of the three-day event because of "the developing situation with smoke, visibility, travel delays and air quality alerts.
"Safety for our teams and fans are number one and when we’re this close to a great event start this decision hurts in the place we call home," OPA said on its Facebook page.
The event would have brought at least 10,000 visitors to Point Pleasant Beach on race day Sunday.
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow was optimistic that air quality would begin to improve Friday and be nearly completely gone by Sunday.
"I still expect there to be a bit of haze around on Friday. But the air should be much more breathable," Zarrow said. "On Sunday, winds flip from northwesterly to southerly. That will put a firm end to the Canadian smoke saga, as it finally gets blown in the other direction."
Hope for a race
Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra told New Jersey 101.5 he was very disappointed in the decision but understands that safety comes first and respects OPA's decision.
"We obviously had the driver that passed away a couple of years ago in the collision in the race and I think that underscored what an inherently risk-filled activity it is and how we need to do everything in our power to mitigate that."
David Raabe, 38, of Forked River, was killed when his team's boat crossed in front of another on the first lap of a race in 2017. The boat went airborne and landed on top of Raabe's boat.
Kanitra said the borough has offered to hold the race during another weekend.
"We're offering all the resources of town hall and my office to try and facilitate that," Kanitra said. "They seemed open to doing that."
The Grand Prix schedule has seven races scheduled between June and November on the east coast.
The race runs a small 4-mile "oval" that comes as close as 150 feet to the beach.
The tradition of the boat race goes back over 40 years, according to the association's website and has been known by a number of names including the Hennessey Offshore Grand Prix, the Benihana Offshore Grand Prix and the War at the Shore.