Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic because I just graduated from college. Or maybe the 11th annual Wilmington Grand Prix just feels extra special. Either way, I want to write about an event that in my view, for the last decade, has brought together the city of Wilmington in a way not many people would have expected.
It’s an event that has taught me lessons and skills I doubt I would have acquired even at demanding internships. It’s an event that is miraculously strung together each year by a group of driven, passionate, focused, altruistic people. It’s an event that makes me proud to be referred to as “Jerry’s daughter.”
The first-ever Wilmington Grand Prix, a three-day national cycling event, took place in 2007. I was 11 years old and enthused by the chance to drive the golf carts up and down Market Street. Now, at 22, I rushed home from graduation in Ann Arbor, Mich., to assist with the pre-Grand Prix madness. I spent the weeks leading up to Grand Prix weekend in the Event Allies office, privy to the countless conversations between my Dad and his fellow event coordinator, Julie Miro Wenger.
“Have we finished assembling sponsorship packets or can I get Sophie to do that?” Dad asks. “How did your conversation with the mayor’s office go?” “What supplies do we have left to buy?” “Have we confirmed the pace car pickup?”
No one can understand the scope of an event like this until they immerse themselves in it. Julie and Dad bear most of the weight, but they tackle the challenge in a way that makes people want to help. My Dad is passionate about creating positive news for a city constantly portrayed in a negative light. I hear his conversations with sponsors and watch him and Julie respectfully interact with vendors. Ultimately, Dad’s genuine enthusiasm is hard to ignore. In fact, it’s contagious. In essence, he and Julie have created a collective conviction to have these three days in May reveal the best attributes of the city.
The event could easily be moved to a setting with less baggage and draw greater attendance, but that defeats the purpose. It has never been about looking for the greenest pastures. Instead, the focus has always been about showcasing Wilmington.
If you listen to the cyclists, most whom travel from other countries and all over the U.S. to compete in this event, the Wilmington Grand Prix is one of their favorite destinations. They think Wilmington is a great place to visit, and they love the city’s hospitality. For my Dad, that’s exactly the point.