Friday, June 6, 2008

Scranton Discovers Pocono 500

The first Indy car 500 mile race at Pocono was in 1971. The first NASCAR race there was in 1974. Tomorrow, Scranton has its first full blown race festival, and it's about time. There have been little NASCAR events over the years, but this is the first really big, destination style party.

Wilkes-Barre had something for a few hours, one afternoon, last summer, on Public Square. Cars, vendors, food, etc. Nice, but it should have been more. Wilkes-Barre is just down Route 115 from the track. Luzerne County hotels and restaurants usually fill up because of the race. "Welcome Race Fans" signs are all over the place. I took this picture as NASCAR day was getting set up.

As I've noted in the past, Corning, NY has a fantastic pre-NASCAR festival called "Race Fever." It's held on the Thursday night before the Watkins Glen race. It used to be held on Market Street, right in the middle of town. Cars would be on display. Drivers signed autographs. Vendors sould souvenirs. Restaurants set up tents and tables on the street. It was great fun, even if you weren't a NASCAR fan. There's a picture from a few years ago on the right. At least 5,000 people would show up, but you can't tell it from the picture. I'm an early bird. The photo was taken at set-up time. I have pictures of wall to wall people on Market Street, but I took them with a film camera (what's that?) and I can't find the prints. "Race Fever" lost a lot of its charm when it was moved to Bridge Street, but that's another story for another time.

Races at Pocono are not just a big part of Monroe County. They're a big part of the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, Allentown, and Hazleton areas. It's time we act like one region. Scranton and Long Pond are not on seperate planets, and it's great to see the city embrace what's going on at Pocono.