Gentlemen, start your engines…

Vacaville is justifiably proud of its new old downtown, replete with library, creek walk, a bakery-deli and bands of roving Realtors who periodically venture out from their offices to spread mirth with their zany antics.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than a waterfall and impromptu wine strolls to keep the excitement turned up on Main Street, and Barber Joe can only do so much on his own.

What to do? What to do?

Three easy words, amigos:Vacaville. Grand. Prix.

Or, if you prefer, Vacaville Grand Prix.

Either way, colorful race machines operated by professional and equally colorful drivers roaring down Main Street, skidding onto Elizabeth Street and then re-emerging (as if by magic!) on Merchant Street at 120 mph are sure to draw automotive aficionados from far and wide to downtown Vacaville.

Grand Prix street racing proved to be such a boon to Santa Monica – although it kind of restricted parking during race week – that even San Jose has decided to give it a spin.

San Jose is hoping that a week-long Grand Prix event will draw more than 100,000 race fans to its downtown, which has been kind of stagnant ever since the dot- com boom busted and the San Jose Sharks got locked out of their own shark tank.

Anytime you can attract 100,000 fans of anything to downtown San Jose, they’re going to bring their wallets with them. They’re going to stay in downtown hotels, shop at local boutiques, eat at local restaurants and vie for fortified wine at the corner liquor store with unemployed computer programmers.

San Jose knows a win-win situation when it sees one – but do we?

If you’re the kind of Vacan who frequently bellows “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” for just about anything, it’s time to start waving the checkered flag for the Vacaville Grand Prix before San Jose manages to hog all the cash-laden race fans for itself.

Admittedly, our downtown is a little more compact than that of San Jose, but we more than make up for our small size with enthusiasm. Formula One racers driven by the stars of “Desperate Housewives” and “CSI Miami” might be just a bit too ambitious for us to begin with, but there are plenty of alternatives that could make downtown Vacaville a racing mecca for fans who are looking for something just a little bit different.

For the first couple of years we could forego the Formula One machines for, say, 1993 Honda Accords with bald tires and no mufflers.

Celebrities are always a big draw when you put them in the driver’s seat, but Solano County has plenty of talented carjackers who can put on just as good a show if you give them the right incentive – say community service credits applied to their probation in exchange for driving time.

What could be better? We put the excitement back in our downtown and give convicted – but big-hearted – felons a fresh start.

Can you say “Win-win!”?

I knew you could…

Originally published February 27, 2005