RACING TO THE FINISH LINE: WILMINGTON GRAND PRIX
Saturday afternoon on the corner of 5th and Market streets with JulieAnne Cross and DJ Zip. Wilmington Grand Prix, May 20, 2017.
This is the final corner. The first half of the Wilmington Grand Prix course bobs and weaves a bit past Rodney Square and around the historic Courthouse. Then it’s a straightaway down King Street before two sharp right turns – the first onto 5th Street, a second onto Market – before the three-and-a-half-block sprint to the finish line.
This is where JulieAnne Cross is working that day. More than a decade since she began her freelance career as a nightlife promoter and marketing consultant, she still returns annually to the spot of one of her first gigs. Working at the inaugural Grand Prix in 2007:
“My personal philosophy is that you can’t really have a hopping downtown without some good nightlife. I think it was the first year of the bike race, Out & About asked my husband, DJ Zip, and some other DJs in the area to put together a lounge in a little corner at Willingtown Square. Archer Group brought in these big fancy beanbag chairs, and we really did make a nice little lounge.”
“It’s lots of fun just standing there on a corner of 5th and Market and screaming ‘Woo!’ I mean, I’ll scream ‘Woo!’ all day if you give me a reason to.”
“But I've actually never seen a wreck until this year.”
“I didn't see the first person go down, but I heard an audible gasp from the crowd. A lot of them went down. And it didn't happen as quickly as you'd think for how fast they are going. But as they came around the corner, they couldn't slow down fast enough, so you were watching as every single cyclist came around, waiting to see if they're going to fall or not.”
“It didn't look like anyone got seriously hurt. No one was taken off in a stretcher. The guy on the bottom, I don't know if he got back in the race or not – he didn't look too great – but a large majority of them got back in the race and we saw their numbers come back around again on the next lap.”
“One year, I had the opportunity to take photos at the finish line. And that was thrilling – I got some great action shots. And you know, people were just as excited about the women's race as they were about the men's race. There is a gender disparity in most sports that is not apparent in cycling. That's really enjoyable, from a female perspective.”
“You know, back when we started, there wasn’t anything else down here back then. Now there's three restaurants and a huge concert venue on the corner of 5th and Market. So being the southern anchor of the bike course here… it’s very meaningful to me. And I spent all day Saturday on the corner chatting with people and convincing them to come back to Merchant Bar that night. And they did.”