Dorchester residents, businesses open doors to thousands of visitors next week
CAMBRIDGE, MD — Known for its scenic byways and picturesque shorelines, Dorchester County is a haven for anyone who loves the outdoors. While the area is sought out by vacationers and weekend visitors because of its relaxed and laid back way of life, over the last decade, Dorchester County has made a name for itself as a premier destination for the highly competitive triathlon circuit, namely because of its partnership with IRONMAN.
Dorchester County Tourism, along with officials from the City of Cambridge, are gearing up for the kickoff of the IRONMAN Maryland triathlon, which takes place Saturday, September 28. The competition is much more than a one-day event, it is the highlight of five-days of festivities, which celebrates the union between one of the most recognized brands in all of sports and one of the largest counties, by land area, in the state of Maryland.
“IRONMAN has been an incredible partner over the years. The establishment of the IRONMAN Maryland race six-years-ago catapulted Dorchester County to the international stage for endurance racing,” said Amanda Fenstermaker, Director of Dorchester County Tourism. In that time, Fenstermaker says the county has seen a more than $25 million economic impact throughout the local community, the region, and the state.
“The overall impact is significant based on the number of athletes and spectators that will be in Cambridge,” said Keats McGonigal, Senior Regional Director of the Mid-Atlantic Upper South Region for IRONMAN. “We have about 2,500 athletes registered. Each one of these athletes brings about two to four people with them, so we estimate about 10,000 people coming to Cambridge for the weekend,” McGonigal added.
A major part of the success of IRONMAN Maryland has been the involvement of local residents who have welcomed competitors and organizers over the years. “The local support has been fantastic. This is part of what makes this so special… It’s what sets this event apart,” said McGonigal.
Angie Hengst, Race Director for IRONMAN Maryland and IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman, said local organizations, such as fire and first responders, will again volunteer during the race, assisting with rescue boats during the swim and at various aid stations out on the course. “We also have many Dorchester County school sports teams and clubs that volunteer, as well as other local non-profits,” said Hengst.
The appreciation and support from the community hasn’t gone unnoticed. “All of these groups are eligible for volunteer grant donations from the IRONMAN Foundation… Between IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman and IRONMAN Maryland, the Foundation gives out a total of $40,000 in volunteerism grants to local community groups each year,” said Hengst.
With competitors traveling to Dorchester County from all over the world, local businesses have embraced the event, with some owners creating ways to connect with spectators and participants. “The local businesses who welcome the athletes are the ones who do well. When they have signs that indicate ‘Triathletes Welcome’, this draws athletes and their families into their establishments,” said McGonigal.
Hengst said some local businesses go the extra mile to cater to competitors and their guests, with sales specifically targeting the endurance competition community, “Many local retailers will order specialized items that appeal to triathletes, such as items that say ‘Swim, Bike, Run’, or items that have images of bikers, swimmers or runners. Local artists will also paint or photograph portions of the course, which are a big hit with the athletes.”
While the event will begin Saturday morning, registration will be held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Also on Wednesday, the official IRONMAN Store and IRONMAN Village will open. The IRONMAN Village, located at Long Wharf Park, will serve as the center of events for the weekend, being both the site for competitor check in’s and briefings. There will also be free events for the public throughout the weekend.
For the triathlon, competitors will start with a 2.4-mile swim in the Choptank River. This will be followed by the 112-mile bike race. The bike portion will take participants through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. With stunning views of marshlands and wildlife, the Blackwater Refuge is home to one of the largest populations of bald eagles on the East Coast. The final leg consists of a 26.2-mile run on the backroads of Dorchester County, offering competitors numerous straightaways along flat running surfaces. Not only will the backroads course showcase the scenic beauty of the county, it will traverse through an area which is paramount in American history. The course will travel through some of the earliest points on the Underground Railroad, and pass the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek. The timing of IRONMAN Maryland this year coincides with the announcement earlier this month from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who proclaimed September International Underground Railroad Month, recognizing the efforts of two of Maryland’s most famous abolitionists, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
“The beauty of the course and the local area makes this event one that athletes want to come back to year after year,” said McGonigal. Hengst echoed the sentiment from a directors perspective, adding, “The rural area lends itself to a great biking and running venue.” The design of the course and the terrain allows competitors ample opportunity to size up their competition, with the ability to gain ground when needed.
Spectators will have numerous options to watch and follow their favorite athletes, including the ability to “Track Your Athlete” by downloading the IRONMAN Track App on smart devices. There will also be shuttle buses running from Cambridge South Dorchester High School and Macey’s Lane Middle School running between Gerry Boyle Park and Great Marsh Park, respectively. Parking in downtown Cambridge will be severely limited and officials encourage spectators to use shuttles on race day.
Maryland’s Sports Commission is sponsoring the official IRONMAN Maryland VIP Experience. Tickets include access to hospitality areas, catered meals, Race Day amenities like charging stations and refreshments, as well as access to athletes and opportunities to secure access to the finish line chute as competitors conclude the race.
“To see the continued success of this partnership between Dorchester County and IRONMAN is something we take great pride in,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of Maryland Sports. “Our goal, as the state’s sports commission, is to ensure that events like IRONMAN Maryland and IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman become part of the fabric of the communities which welcome them, and we really have to give credit to the residents of Dorchester County for making this the perennial event that it is. It’s a team effort that starts with the decision makers and planners, it includes the local businesses and residents who welcome visitors with open arms, and runs all the way to the volunteers with their boots on the ground who make sure the entire weekend is a success,” added Hasseltine.
IRONMAN Maryland will conclude on Sunday, September 29 with an award ceremony and volunteer appreciation breakfast. Officials will also announce the 2020 IRONMAN World Championship Slot Allocation and Rolldown Ceremony beginning at 11:00 a.m.
WHAT: IRONMAN Maryland
WHERE: Dorchester County: Cambridge
WHEN: Wednesday, September 25 to Sunday, September 29, 2019
In 1978, 15 men participated in the very first IRONMAN triathlons on the bustling streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. IRONMAN consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run, in succession. This event serves as one of the many qualifying events across the globe for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii every October.
About Dorchester County Tourism:
Centrally located in the Chesapeake Bay region with a physical shape that resembles a heart, Dorchester is known as the Heart of the Chesapeake. Dorchester is one of nine counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the region separated from the rest of Maryland by the Chesapeake Bay. We’re easy to get to: about 1.5 hours from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and less than three hours from Philadelphia. Get directions. Find out more about the area on this site and in person at the Dorchester County Visitor Center, 2 Rose Hill Place in Cambridge, Maryland.
About Maryland Sports:
The mission of Maryland’s Sports Commission is to enhance Maryland’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events.