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by Valerie Schremp Hahn , St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The biggest event ever at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison is about to rev up, and organizers want everyone to come along for the ride.

The Confluence Festival takes place June 3-5, part of the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300, with events designed to attract kids, grown-ups, and music, barbecue and beer fans — along with racing enthusiasts.

And while a ticket is necessary to join the fun at the raceway — more on that later — a Fan Fest on June 2 at Ballpark Village is free. It includes a NASCAR hauler parade, music and other activities.

Curtis Francois, owner and CEO of World Wide Technology Raceway, has worked for years to secure this NASCAR Cup Series race, a first for the area. He compares it to winning a new sports franchise like soccer or baseball and winning a bid for the NCAA Final Four. Organizers expect the event will draw 83,000 spectators and bring in more than $60 million to the region.

It's an annual event, he says, and "provided it continues to go well, will always be here."

On June 2, the Ballpark Village fan fest includes a NASCAR hauler parade, a first for downtown. The colorful haulers — each carrying one of the 40 competing race cars and equipment used to support them — will roll past the festival to energize spectators.

In between race events June 3-5 in Madison, the gates, infield and midway will open to fans, with dozens of tents and attractions that will entertain, educate and satiate: remote control racetracks, the NASCAR Rocket League esports tournament for high-schoolers, a biergarten and a visit from the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.

There are also barbecue competitions, stunt team demonstrations, vehicle displays, robotics displays, karting and welding.

Reaching young people

Juanita Logan works in community outreach for World Wide Technology, an information technology services provider based in Maryland Heights. Since its name is attached to the raceway, the company exposes young people in underserved communities to technology through raceway programs. Fast cars are a tempting carrot, Logan says.


An area called STEM Lane will feature RaceAR, an augmented reality experience developed by WWT that places visitors at a variety of racetracks to virtually race other users.

Larry Albus is the director of Raceway Gives, the raceway's charitable foundation that works to reach young people year-round, not necessarily to lure them into racing. That would be like hanging your hat on a baseball career while playing little league, he points out.

The idea, he says, is to expose students to STEM fields and give them the confidence and ability to deal with science, technology, engineering and math. Children who work with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in East St. Louis will participate in some activities.


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