The second annual Hillbilly Arm Drop Drag Race begins this weekend, and the economic impact of the event can already be felt.
Last year, the event drew in an estimated 6,000 spectators. “That’s people eating out and staying at hotels,” said event organizer and sponsor Darrell Patton, who added that this year’s early estimates show that the race could potentially draw between 8,000 and 10,000 people.
The Hillbilly Arm Drop Drag Race began with just a few people wanting to have a place to race their cars, Patton said. “After last year’s event, we saw that this could be a huge thing for the area, a positive event.”
According to Patton, all of the work put into running the race has been from volunteers receiving no paychecks, just people with an interest in seeing the event be successful.
“We use the resources we have to help ourselves,” Patton said.
While Patton heaps praise on the volunteer aspect of the event, he does not fail to mention that the event could not take place with out the combined assistance of the cities of Prestonsburg and Paintsville.
Combs Airport, where the event takes place, is situated in Johnson County but is jointly owned and operated by the two cities. “They’re concerned about their town, too, and we’re concerned about ours,” Patton said of the cooperation between Paintsville and Prestonsburg. “So let’s work together to make this a great event.”
Patton said after their first race last September, organizers were approached by Paintsville Tourism. “They saw the value, and they said we want to support you and help you make it better.” During a recent organization race, Paintsville Tourism presented the Prestonsburg Motor Sports a check for $42,000. Patton said the money is essentially a line of credit that they can draw from to enhance the grounds and improve the setting.
One Paintsville Tourism Commissioner gave the two-day race high praise during that meeting.
“It’s the second biggest event behind Apple Day,” said Commissioner Wade Smith. “In our minds, it’s a worthwhile event.”
Patton said the help they have received from both cities has been very positive and encouraging. “We felt like this could be a successful event, and they have given us a chance.”
Prestonsburg Mayor Jerry Fannin says that the event has a positive economic impact on the area. “We’ve got people coming in from Missouri for this event.” According to Patton, seven states are represented just by the pre-registered racers.
Fannin says the common belief with tourism money has always been that every dollar that comes into the area turns over seven times. “This is a two-day event, so there are going to be people eating here and staying in hotels.”
According to Fannin, the cooperation with Paintsville has been a great experience. “Anytime you can work together with different communities, the better off you are.”
This year’s event takes place Friday and Saturday. Admission will remain $5. An additional $5 will grant visitors a visit to the pit area, after signing a waiver. No one under the age of 12 will be allowed in the pits, unless they are with a specific entrant.