Visionaries create big events
Dream big, win big. That's the lesson to be learned when looking at three of the largest events on tap this summer "” June's Paddlefest, July's NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 and August's Western & Southern Open.

Each was spurred by the vision of a key person. Each is bigger than ever this year, evolving into a regional, and in some cases a national or international, draw. Each has significant economic impact, increasingly measured by influx of non-Tristate dollars.

In its 10th year, Paddlefest has grown from a seed of idea in founder Brewster Rhoads' head to the largest paddling event in the nation, with more than 2,000 participants last year. Paddlefest features a music and outdoor festival, an amateur race, a pro race and a signature 8.2-mile leisurely trip from Coney Island to Yeatman's Cove, where another festival awaits.

While no longer owner of Kentucky Speedway, there's no doubt Jerry Carroll deserves the bulk of the credit for being the catalyst that landed a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, taking a huge gamble when he by built the track in 2000 with that expressed purpose. With more than 100,000 fans expected at the inaugural race, the Kentucky-wide economic impact is expected to be $150 million, according to Gov. Steve Beshear.

Pro tournament tennis in Cincinnati has been around for more than 100 years, but only after Paul Flory got involved in 1975 as then-Tournament Director did the W&S Open take off to become the prestigious event it is today. Attendance last year was a record 235,000, and this year's event features men's and women's tournaments held simultaneously, a rare honor. Phil Smith, president and CEO of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he's "comfortable" estimating the economic impact to be "at least $50 million," with 25 percent of tickets sold out-of-state.

While literal bottom lines swell, the figurative bottom line is this: It's inspiring to see the result of visionary leadership.

Who's next?

It was almost a breathless observation: "What a great time for the arts in Cincinnati!" Fresh from the world premiere of "Infamous Love Songs" at the Aronoff, it was clear there is much to celebrate. It includes but is not limited to a $300,000 grant to Cincinnati Opera and the UC College-Conservatory of Music Opera Program to develop new American operas, Yo-yo Ma on stage with Maestro Paavo Järvi and the Symphony, the enduring impact of Louise Nippert's $85 million gift to the arts and thriving regional theater. DAAP students making a fashion splash at the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women," and scores of intriguing student spring exhibits add depth to the mix. So, when ballet dancers broke into dance at CVG last month to the delight of passengers, it just said it all.

June 23-25
Coney Island
(513) 588-6936
NASCAR Sprint Cup
July 9
Kentucky Speedway
Sparta, Ky.
(859) 578-2300
Western & Southern Open
Aug. 13-21
Lindner Family Tennis Center
Mason, Ohio
(513) 651-0303