For more than three decades, thousands of people have converged on Lake DePue every summer to watch a weekend of boat racing.
This weekend, for the 35th consecutive summer, the DePue Men’s Club will put on the Lake DePue Pro National Championship Boat Races.
Races begin at noon on Friday and Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s really the last big event left in town,” said Paul Bosnich III, a DePue native and racer. “The men’s club (which puts on the races) does a lot to support the school. It’s just a huge event and undertaking for the men’s club and town to put this on. To have it for 35 years in a row is an unbelievable feat.”
Race director Paul Bosnich Jr. said the races have meant a lot to the town in terms of bringing in funds for the school.
“It’s meant a lot of income into the town,” Bosnich Jr. said. “The town of DePue has changed over the years. We lost our big business. The men’s club supports the school as much as we can. It works out nice.”
Bosnich III said the races have turned into an event that people in the area, around the country and even internationally look forward to every year.
“It’s pretty aweome,” Bosnich III said about the support racers get at DePue. “We don’t go anywhere else in the country where we get this type of support. All the fans up in the stands cheering and screaming is just unbelievable. It’s one of a kind. You just can’t get a place like this.”
Several times in recent years, there were concerns about the water level in the lake leading up to the races.
A temporary dam had to be installed some years to help increase the water level.
But that’s not the case this summer.
“It’s beautiful,” Bosnich Jr. said about the lake conditions. “We didn’t have to go and put the temporary dam in. The water is up over the seawall, which is nice for us. We went out and set the course (Tuesday). We’re tweaking it now (Tuesday afternoon). The food vendors are puling in.
“It’s one of those things like clockwork that falls into place every year.”
Along with good lake conditions, the weather forecast looks good with temperatures in the mid to upper 80s.
“The weather is supposed to be awesome in the mid 80s,” Bosnich III said. “You can’t beat that. The wind is not supposed to be very high. The water is a perfect level. We’re going to put on a great show for the fans. I think the racing is going to be pretty amazing. I think it’s going to be an awesome week.”
There will be a new type of boat racing in DePue this summer with mod classes.
“They’ve always asked us to run here,” Bosnich Jr. said. “We were looking to boost our number of entries. … It’s a little different than classes we normally run. They’re a little louder than what we usually have and a little slower than what fans are used to. There are some big names in that division coming.
“We’re going Labor Day weekend to Clarksville, Ark. to run a race with them. We’ll support their races they have down there too. It should be interesting.”
Bosnich III has been having a strong season so far as he is the U.S. Title Series points leader in the 250 Runabout and 350 Runabout.
He won the 350 Runabout over the weekend in Constantine, Mich. and placed third in 250 Runabout.
“It’s been a pretty good season,” Bosnich III said. “It’s been a mixed bag in some of the races where we’ve run really good in one class and the next we have trouble. In Constantine, we had a first and third and we were figuring out some of our engine problems that have been plaguing us all year. I hope that means we’re going to come into DePue strong and have a good showing.”
Bosnich III said his engines are in good shape.
“I think we’re pretty set,” Bosnich III said. “We have two really, really good engines for both classes. It’s just getting both dialed in and making sure we have the right packages that we feel are going to give us the best opportunity to win the championship.”
Bosnich III expects the 350 Runabout and 250 Runabout classes to be competitive.
Mike and Rich Krier, Brian Payn, Tim Small, Jason Sailer and Vincent Buskirk are some names to watch.
“The normal people,” Bosnich III said about the competitors in his classes. “There are probably seven or eight of us who can win a national championship. There’s not one boat that doesn’t have a chance to win.”
OTHER LOCALS TO WATCH
Bosnich III isn’t the only local racer looking to win a championship this weekend.
DePue’s Jake Hoffert will compete in the 1100 Hydro and 500 Hydro, while DePue’s Jake Quesse will race in the 250 Hydro.
“Jake Hoffert is running well,” Bosnich Jr. said. “He’s had some speed on him. He finished second in Michigan in the 1100 Hydro class.
“Jake Quesse has not been running well. He’s been struggling with some stuff. We don’t know what it is. We can’t get his motor to run on his boat. We can put it on Paulie’s boat and it runs well. For some reason, it doesn’t run on his. The guy we bought the boat from is coming to see if our setup is different than his because his boat flew with the setup on it.”
Gary Merkel, of Arlington, is competing in 250 Hydro.
“We have a new guy, Gary Merkel, driving 250 Hydro,” Bosnich Jr. said. “He’s running well. It’s his first time with us. His boat is traveling pretty well”
Ladd’s Steve Niesen will compete as well.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.