2013 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Brings Out Stars, but Volunteers Shine

Ask any car aficionado, and they will tell you the true test of a strong car is the frame. For the 2013 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, that frame is the volunteers.

At the 2013 event, held May 31-June 2, more than 1,200 volunteers raced around in green T-shirts, helping in 14 different departments to make certain the Grand Prix ran smoothly through rain or shine. And, without them, the race could not happen.

"We really rely on the interest, experience and the commitment of our volunteers to produce the event," says Rena Shanaman, event director at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. "It almost sounds trite, but truly, the event would not be possible without the volunteers."

The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is a 501(c)(3) and a subsidiary of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. The volunteers are organized under the Detroit Grand Prix Association (DGPA), a nonprofit created in 1982 after the first Formula One World Championship event, held on the Detroit street circuit around the Renaissance Center. Volunteers pay a $15 membership fee to the DGPA.

"And that fee is really intended to get people to think about if they really want to sign up," says Shanaman. "Although we still have a percentage of racing fans as volunteers, a lot of the volunteers are nowhere near the track and probably not going to see a race car. No matter what has motivated people to volunteer at first, they feel like this is their personal giveback to city."


Each volunteer attends orientation and training sessions. Here, they're briefed on knowledge of the island and the structure of the race. Besides free racing apparel, souvenir lapel pins and backstage access to all the drivers, volunteers also are treated to a post-race celebration.

For Detroit resident Bianca Rodwell, an auto-body technician major at Baker College, volunteering is about being in a car-loving atmosphere.

"I figured maybe this would get me closer to the cars. I am still happy I get to hear it. I can see a little from my window," says Rodwell, who was stationed in the volunteer check-in office just off of Jefferson Avenue before the Belle Isle Bridge.

"I got to meet Plain White T's. I got pictures. I got to meet Bret Michaels. I got to meet Kid Rock. It's like NASCAR, but you are a part of it in your city. I am speechless."

For more information on upcoming events at Belle Isle, visit the BLAC Detroit online calendar.

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