For the first time since 1997, the Great Race will be passing through Granbury on Father’s Day weekend, June 18-20.
Participants driving in cars manufactured in 1974 or earlier will cross through eight states. The nine-day 2021 Great Race event will start in San Antonio, and end in Greenville, South Carolina.
To celebrate the arrival of the racers in Granbury, there will be three days of activities, starting on Friday, June 18, at Farr’s Movie Car Museum and a DriveXotic car driving experience ($299 for three vehicles and four laps) — both from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in Cresson. From 5-5:15 p.m. and 5:15-5:30 p.m., attendees can take two session parade laps on MotorSport Ranch track, also in Cresson.
On Saturday, June 19, the Farr’s Movie Car Museum and DriveXotic will still be available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., but there will also be a MotorSport Ranch Club Race with Porsches and Miatas from 4-5:30 p.m., along with a dusk showing of the movie “The Great Race” at Hewlett Park in Granbury.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 20, the opening ceremonies of the Great Race will take place at the Historic Granbury Square. Announcements will be made live from KHits at Decker Gym and HankFM on the Square, along with a Pecan Plantation “Missing Man Formation” jet flyover. From noon to 2 p.m., residents can welcome the arrival of more than 200 Great Racers on the square.
Before the Great Race starts, children ages four to 12 can also participate in a coloring contest — drawn by late Granbury resident J.C. Campbell. All colorings will be on display in Celebration Hall for the drivers to see while on their Granbury stop. Coloring pages need to be submitted by Monday, June 14, and can be downloaded by going online to www.visitgranbury.com/the-great-race/.
HISTORY OF THE GREAT RACE
The Great Race was started by late Granbury resident Tom McRae and partner Norman Miller in 1983. They took over the "Great American Race” from the original promoter when McRae and friend Curtis Graf were the only two entrants who signed up for the race.
The first race was open only to pre-World War II vehicles and featured 69 brave antique auto enthusiasts who were excited to try their hand at the 31-hour trek from Knott’s Berry Farm near Los Angeles to Indianapolis, Indiana. Each entrant had to pay a $5,000 entry fee and was competing to win $250,000 in prize money.
As the years went by, Tom made sure to provide interesting routes for the participants, including: Disneyland in Anaheim, California to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia to Seattle, Washington; and Ottawa, Canada to Mexico City, Mexico.
Carol “Sister” McRae, Tom’s sister, joined in helping him with the Great Race in 1989.
“He and I had always had sibling rivalry, but we bonded on that trip. I said, ‘How did you ever do this without me?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, but I'm never leaving without you.’ I did every race with him after that,” she said.
Tom continued the race for several years, but eventually grew bored with it.
“Tom was an entrepreneur and he had done so many things. He had manufactured clothes ... you name it, he had done it,” Carol said. “He wanted to be on the square because he wanted to put in a car museum and borrow cars from the Great Racers for a year and feature them in the yearbook.”
FOUNDING OF GRANBURY LIVE
The car museum was 3,000 square feet and took Tom a year to put together. Not long after, Tom had the opportunity to buy the building next door to the museum — a building that is now home to Granbury Live.
Tom put an apartment upstairs where he lived with his wife, but he still wasn’t sure what to do with the downstairs area.
“One day we met up with Russ (Hearn) who was a musician,” Carol said. “He and Russ started talking and Tom said, ‘We really need music in Granbury.’ Russ, being a musician, took Tom out to dinner and they wrote the plans on the napkin. A partnership was born right there and that’s how Granbury Live started.”
Granbury Live officially opened on Nov. 26, 1999, at the end of the annual Christmas parade.
“He built that portico and he draped it in black plastic all the way down so nobody could see what we were doing,” Carol said. “As soon as the parade was over, he dropped those black plastic curtains. People just ran toward it. It was amazing. It kind of took your breath away.”
In 2002, Tom directed his last Great Race, choosing to focus instead on his music theater business. He sold the Great Race to 11 Great Racers who called themselves “Rally Partners.”
In the early 2000s, he was a guest on NBC’s “The Today Show” and sat down with that network’s Katie Couric and Matt Lauer to discuss the Great Race.
On May 23, 2005, Tom was on his way to Fredericksburg to open a theater with Hearn called “Main Street Live” but unfortunately, Tom was killed on his way there in a motorcycle accident.
“He had a need for speed and he was going too fast. That was the last time I saw him,” Carol said.
CONTINUING TOM’S LEGACY
Although Tom is no longer with us, his vision for the event and his love for old cars still lives on through the continuation of the Great Race, thanks to Carol.
“I have been in every state except Rhode Island,” she said. “Not all because of the Great Race, but I have been places I have never dreamed, like Fargo, North Dakota. My favorite race, we went from Canada to Mexico City to do an international race. That was the hardest race I ever worked, handling the entrance, but it was the most fun. It was unbelievable; it was just so much fun.”
Carol said Tom’s best friend, Curtis Graf, is also keeping Tom’s memory alive, as he has competed in every single Great Race since it first began.
“I quit a high-paying job to work with my brother because he was having too much fun without me,” Carol added, “We had the race for 20 years and I’m so glad it’s continued. It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”
For more information on the Great Race, visit www.greatrace.com.