Right on Targa

Ken Simmons
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If you read my column last week, you know there's been a bit of an upheaval along the Burin Peninsula. The town council in Marystown seems set to forego participating in Targa Newfoundland for 2014. The reaction from Targa was one of disappointment; council was insulted by the reaction.

So, it may be strange to find a Targa supporter in Marystown who looks upon this whole kerfuffle as an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Mike Brennan told me Wednesday he is tickled with the way people are coming together to support the event.

Now, before I go any further, you might as well know I believe in Targa Newfoundland. I have covered it, I have competed (and crashed) in it, I have volunteered as a safety officer for it. I know how it is run, how popular it is and who benefits most from it.

Before your cynicism bells go off, it is not the organizers.

Mike Brennan knows there are benefits to having Targa come through your town. A well-known and very successful local businessman, he thinks the sharp focus put on the event by the council controversy is the biggest opportunity the town has had in some time.

"We need to work with it instead of slamming the hammer," he says. That means digging in for the long term, drawing all kinds of car fans to the region's hub not just for Targa's two days but building a kind of automotive festival around the event.

His ideas are good, and I know they could draw multitudes of gearheads. Ask the town fathers of Monte Carlo if racing is good for business.

Brennan said the Marystown residents who support the event hope to make council understand what they might be giving up.

"I'm seeing a community spirit I have never seen before," he told me. He said a committee fell together quickly, and he has seen letters written and petitions started as a way to answer all the questions the council might have.

"They are all doing things that are positive because they believe the event is worth it."

And worth it not just because we like to watch - or drive - cool cars along some fun roads. (Which we do.)

Worth it because it involves more than 2,000 committed volunteers every year - some of them high school students trained to take on their first experience with real responsibility. Worth it because an overnight stay brings something like $150,000 into every overnight host town and more than $6 million to the province each year.

Worth it because the media coverage outside the province, which shines a very favourable light on every community the event passes through, reaches literally millions of potential visitors.

There is no safer motorsports event on the planet, yet organizers and volunteers work diligently to make each year even safer than the last. Safety concerns are not only taken seriously, anyone who believes they see a weakness in that area are invited - implored even - to join with the group to help eliminate those concerns.

Participants are generous with their praise of the province and the people they meet. They are just as generous to the charities they represent, and the ones they meet along the way.

All this with no cost to the province, the towns or the people who line the streets, fill the bushes and hang over bridges to catch the action. Mike Brennan is right. This isn't an annoyance, it's an opportunity, and any council that turns it away isn't looking past the Town Hall door.

And they should, because that's where the voters are.

Ken Simmons, The Telegram’s new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr rocknrolln.tumblr.com.

Geographic location: Targa, Monte Carlo, Marystown

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