They are the oldest volunteer organization associated with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, so it comes as no surprise that they host the oldest hospitality club on the circuit — the Paddock Club.

When Chris Pook first came up with the idea of a street race in Long Beach, one of his first conditions was creation of a volunteer force to work the race. He figured that it would take 300 volunteers to make the event a success, and the Committee of 300 was born.

This will be the 39th Grand Prix for the C-300, or Redcoats, as they are known, thanks to their trademark red blazers and jackets. They and their affiliated volunteers will be checking tickets at the grandstands race weekend, helping with the large press corps and hanging out at the Paddock Club behind Turn 11, the hairpin leading to the final straight-away.

“We’re going to incorporate a good number of volunteers from the Substance Abuse Foundation, as we did last year,” said Rich Carry, this year’s C-300 president. “For the first time this year, we’re going to work shifts at the grandstands to allow members to enjoy the ambiance of the race circuit, too.”

Carry calls the C-300 a working club, with members taking on volunteer tasks throughout the year, both promoting the Grand Prix and helping other groups by doing things such as providing crowd control at the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade.

Still, many people know the C-300 primarily as the host of the Paddock Club, a unique race party venue. The fenced club offers food, live entertainment, the only full bar available to the public (“and the cheapest on the course,” Carry added), closed circuit television of the races and more.

“We changed the whole look last year, and we’re going with that again this year,” Carry said. “We’ll have the Sultans Car Club, and Rick Lorenz will have a presence again, too. There will be driver autograph sessions, dancing to live music and more.”

Paddock Club chair Phyllis Covey said that the caterer, S.J. Elliot, is raising the bar this year with the food, serving pulled pork one day and steak the next. A special treat this year will be the Memorial Cars from Fueled By The Fallen, a group helping support military members, public safety personnel and their families. Service personnel with identification will be admitted into the club for free.

Carry said that Paddock Club ticket sales were on pace with last year, and good seats still are available. The club is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a three-day package including breakfast and lunch Saturday and Sunday as well as reserved grandstand seats on the final straightaway.

This year, the group is offering a Sunday-only package for $160. That also includes the meals and the reserved seats. The full three-day package is $295. Buy four tickets and a free parking pass is added.

“We’ll have Friday-only tickets, too,” Covey said. “Call us, and we’ll meet your needs. We’re really trying to customize packages this year. We just really want everyone to have a great time at the races.”

There’s one other attraction that only the Paddock Club can claim among all the hospitality tents and other parties on the race circuit — bathrooms with running water. The club uses the permanent beach restrooms, sprucing them up for race weekend.

For more information, go to www.gplb.com and click on the C-300 link. Tickets can be purchased through the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ticket office, online or by calling either 1 (888) 82-SPEED or the C-300 office at 981-9200.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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