(Gary Rust 2/Southeast Missourian) [Order this photo]
Crowds began to slowly file in to downtown Cape Girardeau early this afternoon, and sidewalks were lined with spectators by the finish of the race.
Despite a slow start in the morning, shuttle sites at West Park Mall and the Show Me Center reported an increase in
passengers bused to a drop-off location at the corner of Broadway and Main Street by afternoon.
As of 2:30 pm 110 people had ridden from the mall while 150 had taken the bus from the Show Me Center. Traffic at both locations was light until around 1 pm. Both locations reported no problems in loading passengers onto the buses.
Dionne Hoffmeister, coordinator of the mall location, said the most people to ride a bus at one time was 51 people at 2:30 pm. Among those from out of town riding the shuttle were residents of Ste Genevieve, Mo., the starting city of this morning's race, and Farmington, Mo., the site of Wednesday's start.
"Quite of few of the people from Farmington said they came because they wanted to check out what it was like in Cape Girardeau," Hoffmeister said.
Marje Englemann, coordinator of the Show Me Center location, said out-of-town passengers came from as far away as California and Kansas City, Mo.
Preparations began earlier in the day to get the downtown ready for the race finish and the rush of people expected to accompany it.
As the Tour of Missouri racers began Stage 2 in Ste. Genevieve this morning, the sounds of hammers banging tents into place and the first aroma of food from vendors hoping for a big day greeted early visitors to the street festival at Independence Street and Main Street.
Preparations downtown were at a high pitch to be ready for the official opening of the festivities at noon. The 120 riders participating in the 112.4 mile road race to Cape Girardeau are expected to arrive downtown between 3 and 4:15 p.m.
A smooth beginning of the day along with warm, sunny weather pleased Tracey Glenn, vice president of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and chairwoman of the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee. "Everything is absolutely fabulous," she said
Police swept through areas with restricted parking soon after the 6 a.m. cutoff for parking along many downtown streets and were able to get almost every car on the route removed. So far, no cars had been towed around 11 a.m.
Along Main Street to the south of Independence, vendors were checking inventories, laying out literature and icing down drinks. Laura Delgado, owner of Del Enterprises, hopes to attract new clients for her Nutralite Sports drinks.
Generating awareness of her business, not just selling bottles of the drink, are Delgado's goals for the day. "A successful day for us is meeting like-minded people into sports and nutrition," she said. "That is what we really want to do."
Ray Ressel, owner of Ray's of Kelso, said his menu is designed for the street festival -- chicken, steak and even fruit-and-melon-with-cheese, all on skewers. Ressel expects to make $5,000 to $8,000 in sales throughout the day.
The decision to take part, he said, was helped by the strong cooperation from the tour event's local organizers. "They are doing as well as could be expected from they had to deal with," Ressel said. "Of course, it's the first time for everybody."
A successful event will only help Cape Girardeau's image, said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Area Magnet, the economic development agency that promotes the county. "It is an exciting event," he said. "Cape Girardeau has an opportunity to showcase the community."
For more, check back at semissourian.com or read Wednesday's Southeast Missourian.
43 S. Main St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.