The Watercraft Journal: When was the JR Stars program established? What sparked the idea for you?

Bridget Hagest: JR Star Racing began in 2006-2007. Chris [Hagest] was doing the National Tour and we decided to host small clinics at each of the races to teach the juniors about safety, passing, equipment, starts, and sponsors. As a teacher, I have a passion for helping kids. As a pro rider, Chris has a passion for everything jet ski! It just made sense! It seems pretty cheesy when I look back at pictures from the early days of JR Star. We had a flip chart and markers to teach with and handed out keychains at the end of a session.

As we continued to show up at races and host these events, more and more people got involved and donated their time, expertise, product, and money. What started as small “how-to” clinics at a few National races evolved into a larger support system for juniors all around the world. Instead of just handing out keychains, now we can provide riders with amazing gifts like performance sponsons, gift certificates, GoPros, riding gear and more!

WCJ: Have you seen more kiddos racing since you started the program?

BH: As we have grown, we have certainly received more attention from juniors and their families. We have had more and more participants at our Ride with the Pros event each year since we started that. After this past year’s success, I’m sure next year will be even bigger!!

WCJ: Tell us about JR Stars Day with the Pros at the World Finals. What all do you have to do in order to make that day happen?

BH: There is a lot of “behind the scenes” work that goes into preparing for “Ride with the Pros.” The first year we did it at “Crazy Beach.” It was pretty low-key. We didn’t have permission from anyone to really hold an official event- we just spread the word and all showed up. We brought some prizes for kids, some snacks, and just kind of went with it. The pros all talked to the juniors under one tent, the kids were all introduced, then they all hit the water and practiced for a while.
The next year we moved the event to Body Beach. We had a bigger set-up, anticipating a bigger crowd. More kids and families showed up. We had more tents, food, and prizes. The pros all talked to the kids in the beginning again, but they didn’t practice on the water as much because Body Beach was so crowded. It wasn’t really safe to do starts or practice motos with the kids.

Last year’s event [2013] was by far the most organized. In 2013 we became an official government recognized non-profit organization. This was an important step forward for us, but because we were “officially recognized” now, we had to play by the rules. No more “informal” events that could cause a liability. Scott Frazier of the IJSBA was extremely supportive of the event from the beginning. Open communication with him and his staff allowed us to host the event at the actual race site, the day before the track “officially opened” for the World Finals.

For liability purposes, only registered pro riders and junior riders could participate. We had to ask the water safety crew to volunteer their time to make the event happen. We also had to persuade an ambulance to be on site for the event in case of any emergencies. I had been collecting prizes from sponsors for about a month. I contacted pro riders and asked them if they would be interested in “teaching” certain portions of the event. I created pamphlets to advertise the event, and flooded Facebook every day for a month inviting and reminding people about the day! I created little junior “bio” cards. When the juniors signed in that day, we took their picture and had them fill out the card describing which classes they would be racing, where they were from, and who their sponsors were. These “bios” were displayed on big, colorful boards all World Finals week under our JR Star Racing tent.

We also bought a ton of food and drinks, and gave out sweet JR Star Racing bags filled with goodies including our 2013 tshirt, water bottle, and more! Riders got a chance to sign in, get their goodies, meet and greet with other juniors and pro riders, then we got into the meat of the event. Pro riders talked to the kids about all aspects of racing. Juniors got to practice starts on the starting line, and moto’d with the pros for a while. We gave out awesome prizes-it was a great experience for all involved. When it was all over, it was a great relief! Nobody got hurt, the kids were all pumped up, and Scott invited us back again for this year!

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