President Richard Nixon had Watergate.
County Mayor Jerry Cunningham has Regatta-gate.
The "scandal" will be part of the legacy of the first Big BBQ Bash, which had as one of the events a return of the Mayoral Regatta.
The Bash, held Friday and Saturday, June 15-16, at Alcoas Springbrook Corporate Center, was a fund raiser for area charities and the Legacy Project of the Leadership Blount Class of 2007. The Mayoral Regatta was a turn around the pond and Lilly Island at the Corporate Center that brought teams competing in canoes.
Saturdays Regatta began days before with "smack talk" from competitors. When time came to put the paddle to the water, 15 teams of two took off from the dock on the far side of the pond.
In what appeared to be a case of bad steering on the part of Mayor Cunningham and Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett was in fact a ruse. While the other contestants were steering their canoes along the designated route and skirting fountains shooting water up into the air, Bennett and Cunningham went straight toward the island - and the finish line.
As the other canoes were rounding the last fountain and heading under a pedestrian bridge to Lilly Island and the finish line, two canoes were poised for victory. One was the Leadership Blount Class of 2006, piloted by Micky Roberts and Steve Hillis, and the other by Maryville City Manager Greg McClain and Maryville Vice Mayor Tom Taylor.
Then along the bank and to the left appeared the canoe of Cunningham and Bennett. The two were paddling furiously as they pulled two canoe-lengths in front of the first two competitors.
Raising their paddles in victory, they passed under the bridge first. Their celebration was short lived. Regatta organizers disqualified the mayor as B97.5 personality Jeff Jarnigan dubbed the whole incident "Regatta-gate," and awarded the prize to Roberts and Hillis.
Second place went to McClain and Taylor and third place to Team Fight Master - Christi and Rob Fightmaster.
The only boat to capsize was The Threatening Partner Ship, piloted by Blount County Economic Development Board Vice President Bryan Daniels and Matt Murray.
Two days after the race, Bennett and Cunningham each defended their actions and contended they were cheated of the championship. "We was robbed, we was robbed," Bennett said facetiously. "You show me in the rules where it said you had to go up the lake and around a buoy. It said first one to cross the finish line wins."
Cunningham said the other competitors were complaining because he and Bennett outsmarted them. "The shortest between two points is a straight line. Were going to be giving geometry lessons to next years participants as well as drown-proofing classes for Bryan Daniels and Matt Murray," he said.
Roberts, the Blount County Health Department director, said the race was a lot of fun. "I think it was good time for everyone involved. We raised good money for a worthy cause," he said.
Primary beneficiary of the funds raised at the Big BBQ Bash was New Hope Blount County Childrens Advocacy Center, the charity chosen by Leadership Blount Class of 2007. However, each of the 37 teams entered in the contest could choose their own charity to donate half the prize money if they won, and to receive proceeds from any food sales.
Charities represented in the Bash included Trinity Dental Clinic, Alzheimers Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Blount County Fire Department Smoke Alarm Program, Toys for Tots/Senior Service League, Maryville Citys School Foundation, Fort Sanders Foundation Cardiac Rehab Fund, Blount County New Hope Childrens Advocacy Center, American Red Cross of Greater Knoxville, United Way, Blount County Humane Society, Tyson House, Fraternal Order of Police Bud Allison Lodge, Damon and Stella Foundation for Mental Health, the Komen Foundation, United Negro College Fund, Helen Ross McNabb, St. Jude Childrens Hospital and Community Food Connection of Blount County.
While totals were still being counted, the approximate amount of money raised by Leadership Blount Class of 2007 for charities could be as high as $24,000 or more, class member Randy Massey said.
After prize money of $15,750 was paid, Massey said figures showed a net of $18,000 with just a few expenses left to pay. In addition, half of the $15,750 went to charities.
Massey said the only bills left to pay were a $500 insurance bill and a $321 port-a-potty bill.
Massey said he was happy with how well the Bash went and with the crowd response from the community. "Ive never had so much fun gaining five pounds," he said.
Winners in the cooking competition were:
1st place -- Soggy Bottom Smokers (Henry DeVault)
2nd -- The Hot and Spicy Chicks (Denso)
3rd -- Piggy Bankers (First Tennessee Bank).
1st place -- Chairman of the Boar (Massey Electric Co.)
2nd -- Barbecue Bankers (First Tennessee Bank)
3rd -- Hickory Hillbillies (Adam Diamond)
1st place -- Smoke on the Water (Alcoa Power Generating, Inc.)
2nd -- Piggy Bankers (First Tennessee Bank)
3rd -- Tie: Foothills Smokers (Marc Horton) and Smoke Me Tender (Animal Care Design).
In the Anything But category, TN Ops Hotline Grill Masters (representing Alcoa, Inc.) took the trophy. There was no money given with this award. Winners in each of the preceding categories won $3,000 for first place, $1,500 for second and $750 for third. Each winner had to give half their winnings either to a charity of their choice or to the New Hope Blount County Childrens Advocacy Center.