REGION – It may be known internationally as the world’s toughest spectator race, but for local businesses, the Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon is best known as an economic engine that generates a $1 million windfall from Grayling to Oscode.
“You can’t duplicate race week,” said Heather Compton, owner of Northbound Outfitters. “It’s been the best week of the year at Grayling. It’s all super positive, it’s an energy we thrive on.
This impact was brought home when the race was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners along the 120-mile marathon course are confident that the momentum that began with the return of competition in 2021 will remain strong when competitors return July 30-31.
Businesses ranging from restaurants, gas stations and novelty stores to hotels and campgrounds benefit from their slice of the $1 million economic pie that pours into local communities, according to annual estimates from chambers and organizers of the event.
Mark Pattullo, owner of the Express Mart and Campgrounds, said they usually stay open until 10 p.m. on Saturdays, but on Marathon weekend they stay open until 2 a.m.
“It’s a good shot in the arm for us,” Pattullo said. “It’s great to see people with license plates from everywhere coming into our store. We have an additional register running that night with additional traffic coming in. Having the race back two years in a row has been great for our community’s business and morale.
The Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon began in 1947 and includes portages over six Consumers Energy dams. The night canoe competition draws thousands of visitors to northeast Michigan each year.
This year, spectators will begin arriving at the start line where the Au Sable River passes under the M-72 in downtown Grayling around 6 p.m. on July 30 for competitor introductions, speeches and other pre-start entertainment. race official at 9 p.m.