At a called meeting of the Dawsonville Downtown Development Authority held on Thursday, Aug. 27, authority members approved a $25,000 grant application from the Georgia Council of the Arts to fund a display honoring Chase Elliott at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
During the meeting, Karmen Pharris, a representative for the committee spearheading the project, explained to the authority members that the grant money will be put towards another larger grant application that requires a 50 percent match.
“We’re requesting a $25,000 grant for the Chase Elliott renovation project at the racing museum,” Pharris said. “If granted, we will use these funds to match a $50,000 grant we’ve applied for with the Georgia Council of the Arts.”
The project as presented to the DDA will be a new exhibit honoring Elliott and his NASCAR success and will include his current wins, trophies, race suits and memorabilia. It will be interactive, with video and audio clips incorporated for guests to learn more about Elliott and his racing career, and it will also be updated every year to add in his newest accomplishments.
“The idea is to have information that true fans want to know, such as engineering information for a specific car race, the fuel mileage and what the crew had to do to get the win,” Pharris said. “The display will be changed every year to reflect his most recent accomplishments.”
According to Pharris, construction on the exhibit would begin on Nov. 1 and end on May 1.
The idea behind the project is to both honor Elliott and his family, who have lived in Dawsonville for several generations, and to help draw in more visitors to the city.
“If you watch NASCAR, you know that Dawsonville is mentioned in almost every race and it’s because of the Elliotts that they’ve put us on the world map,” Pharris said. “Our vision for this project is to bring Chase fans here and for them to be able to see his latest accomplishments.”
David Robertson, member of the project committee, told the DDA that in his opinion the new exhibit would be helpful to updating the museum for a younger generation of NASCAR fans.
“The problem is that a lot of new NASCAR fans unfortunately don’t care about the history; a lot of the fans on Chase’s social media like to talk about Dawsonville but they don’t know why they’d ever come here,” Robertson said. “I really feel like we as a community are doing a disservice to not have something here in the community dedicated to Chase at this time because truly he’s a superstar in America.”
Christie Moore, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, another driving force behind the project, told authority members that from a tourism perspective the new exhibit could help to boost the Racing Hall of Fame’s popularity and reach.
“From a tourism perspective, I can say one of the big questions we receive is ‘where can we go find out more about Chase or see his stuff’,” Moore said. “Unfortunately right now there’s not really anything dedicated to him, and that’s really why the chamber got involved with this committee: because we think this could be a great expansion of the tourism that we already offer.”
Moore also explained to the DDA that even if the larger grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts is denied, there are still several other grants that can be applied for with the Authority’s money.
“Even if the council for the arts denies, there are actually a good number of other grants that we could go after as a committee,” Moore said. “And no matter what, this committee is committed to making this project happen.”
The DDA unanimously approved the grant request.
“Chase represents Dawsonville and NASCAR so well,” Pharris said. “They have all done so much for our little town, so we hope we can honor them and do this to show how proud we are of NASCAR’s most popular driver.”