Montague’s annual Race the Runway in jeopardy, council told

The 8th annual Race the Runway
The 8th annual Race the Runway was held on Aug. 10, 2019 at the Russ Beach Smiths Falls–Montague airport. The 2020 event may not go ahead as planned. Photo credit Emilie Must.
Posted on: February 19, 2020

Montague Township’s largest annual event may not happen because of internal conflict between the Smiths Falls Flying Club members and the Race the Runway board of directors, town councillors were told Feb. 18. 

Race the Runway co-founder Peter O’Blenis appeared at a meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole to appeal for help.

“Members of the flying club board don’t want the event to continue,” O’Blenis said. ”It’s an insurmountable hurdle for us.”

Event organizers were told they are unable to use the flying club parking areas this year, said O’Blenis.

“If we can’t get sign off to use the facility then we just can’t do it,” O’Blenis said. ”We are really almost out of time.”

“It (Race the Runway) belongs in Smiths Falls,” he added. “It was born here and is something we’re really proud of.”

The annual event began in 2012 as a way to raise money for the flying club and is now the largest fundraiser in the history of the Russ Beach Smiths Falls-Montague Airport. More than $250,000 was raised for charitable causes including a $5,000 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

“450,000 is made annually for the community,” O’Blenis said. “We have 2,000 cars racing down the runway and we’ve never had an accident.”

O’Blenis said moving the event somewhere else would be the “worst case scenario,” given that time is running out.

Smiths Falls councillors were in agreement over not wanting to get involved in the internal dispute. 

“I’m very sorry that there is this division within the Smiths Falls Flying Club,” Councillor Wendy Alford said. “It’s unfortunate, but when you bring it to the council table, none of that is something I feel I want to participate in.” 

“We need to find some way to bridge this difference,” Councillor Peter McKenna said. “Hopefully we can help facilitate a conversation between the two parties.” 

“At this point in time I would hate to see it not continue,” Councillor Lorraine Allen said. “It is a big fundraiser for many of our groups, but more than that it’s an event that calls us to go to Montague and spend the day.”

Article by Emilie Must