Cross-country Cannonball Run stops in River Parishes
LAPLACE — Visitors from England, Norway, Trinidad and other points around the globe made a two-day stop in the River Parishes this week as the 2019 Cannonball Run Car Rally passed through New Orleans.
This year’s Cannonball Run started in Dallas on Oct. 25 and ended in Savannah Georgia on Friday, with stops in San Antonio, Austin, New Orleans, Talladega, Birmingham and Atlanta along the way.
G.Smith Motorsports hosted 20 stunning show cars, some totaling more than $1 million in value, in St. Rose between Monday night and Wednesday morning. While stationed locally, riders had the opportunity to explore dining and shopping throughout the New Orleans region.
Representing St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes, G.Smith Motorsports has participated in the rally for the past three years. In 2017 and 2018, G.Smith received a North American title for the dynamic unveiling of specially designed Callaway Corvettes.
This year, G.Smith opted to host riders, according to co-owner Glen Smith.
“It’s important for us to be a part of it because they were coming through New Orleans, which is our hometown,” Smith said. “You establish a relationship with these people from around the world. There are some big players here. These are professionals in their walks of life. They dress down because this is their hobby, but these are doctors, attorneys and owners of robotics companies.”
The Cannonball Run has the same philanthropic spirit as G.Smith Motorsports, according to Smith.
“They run all across the country, and there are charities along the way that they participate in to raise money for law enforcement, kids and things of that nature,” Smith said. “You pay to enter. Some of that money is for the operation, and some goes to charity.”
Cancer awareness and research was a big focus this year, according to Cannonball Run coordinator Zac Dugger. Each year, Dugger spends six to eight weeks scouting roads across the country to find scenic back roads and hidden gems. The scouting process also involves finding charities that align with the stops along the route.
“It’s a car rally for charity and for fun,” Dugger said. “We run with a group out in Austin that has a breast cancer charity, as well as a national charity (called) Rally to Give. The national charity is for cancer research in general.”
The rest of the fun comes from the thrill of the ride, according to Dugger. It’s a test of physical endurance for drivers and navigators traveling seven hours per day through changing weather conditions. Along the way, participants forge lifelong friendships.
“We call it an extended family reunion with our cars,” Dugger said. “We have 50 really good friends and we are together from all over the world. We call it living in a movie. That’s the idea. Everybody gets to do fantasy things that they would never think of. It’s events and experiences outside of their normal life.”
After parking in St. Rose, the 2019 participants were welcomed by the Smith family. One of the riders celebrated his birthday at the stop.
Ingrid Olsen of Norway was excited to visit the River Region because of the close proximity to New Orleans.
“I’ve never been to New Orleans, so it was nice to come here to see the shops and experience the hospitality,” Olsen said. “We had dinner last night. Everything has just been amazing. New Orleans has so much history, so I really enjoyed it.”
The Cannonball Run Car Rally was right up Smith’s alley. He and his brother Gary Smith grew up riding bikes in Norco, and the duo have always had a fascination with show cars. Through G.Smith Motorsports, they have done philanthropic work throughout the River Parishes, including but not limited to school supply drives, Thanksgiving meal distributions and children’s bike giveaways for Christmas.
Glen Smith is also invested in the future of St. John the Baptist Parish as a member of Parish President-elect Jaclyn Hotard’s recently announced Transition Team. He will have a key role in selecting the new parish administration.
“We are going to focus on putting together the best team we can find around our new Parish President,” Smith said. “We want to make sure we put a team together that is second to none.”