As the Great Lakes Grand Prix descends upon Washington Park this weekend, it’ll be difficult to gauge what moves faster: the speedboats or Michigan City’s director of special events Terry Greetham. 

The races that lure some of the swiftest powerboats in the world are permanently bolded, italicized, and underlined on Greetham’s calendar. The 1985 Marquette graduate has spent much of his summer managing operations for an event that pumped over $18 million into the LaPorte County economy in 2021. Michigan City’s craziest week of the year portends to be smooth sailing with Greetham having served a full year under his belt.

Greetham, who accepted his position in late May of 2021, has leaned on a high-octane work ethic to both oversee Michigan City’s existing special events and introduce new ones.

“The park superintendent came in on my first day and said he was handing over the Patriotic Parade to me. I said, ‘Great! When is it?’ He said, ‘Three weeks,’ Greetham remembers.

With 20 days to prepare and no information from prior years to use as a blueprint, he increased the number of participating units from three to 108. 

This past June, Greetham saw innovation come to fruition when Michigan City staged its inaugural Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival. It was the first of its kind to grace the South Shore, and its instant success is the latest example of the lakefront serving as an attractive catalyst for Michigan City.

Considering his professional background, it’s remarkably fitting that Greetham will help usher in the Great Lakes Grand Prix. He’s found himself in and around those with a need for speed ever since his college days at Ball State.

“My sophomore year, some of the guys and I skipped classes on a day in May, and we drove down to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’ve always been an IndyCar fan. I’ve loved racing since I was a kid. I got there, and while my friends were partying and having a great time, I’m walking around going, ‘I wonder what that guy does. I wonder what that guy does.’ And it got me inspired,” he recalls.

From that truant day forward, Greetham pivoted from sports medicine to public relations and advertising.

He liked his odds of joining a race team in a PR role. So following his graduation from Ball State, he bet on himself, and the resourceful, charismatic young man from Michigan City moved to Indianapolis. 

It was a gamble Greetham won, but only because he created his own luck.

He accepted a job making copies at an Indy law firm solely because several attorneys there represented IndyCar owners and drivers. Greetham met the right person and parlayed that gig into an opportunity with Special Events Incorporated, a hospitality operations group for Mercedes-Benz Motor Sports. The opportunity was a one-month audition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with nary a promise nor guarantee.

Greetham again capitalized on his chance.

After a trial run that included all sorts of other duties as assigned - cleaning tables, emptying trash, polishing wheels - Greetham was offered a full-time hospitality position working at all IndyCar races nationwide.

He was in.

From his arrival on the racing scene in 1995, Greetham was a part of three Indy 500-winning teams, the first coming with Arie Luyendyk in 1997 (pictured). Before long, he found himself in the same orbit as Michael Andretti, Fred Treadway, and Roger Penske. 

Greetham eventually returned closer to home, where he served as senior director of event operations at Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway for ten years until taking on his current post. 

When he reflects on a winding journey that has him back in Michigan City, Greetham doesn’t have to look far to be reminded of his family legacy. It’s hidden in plain sight. 

A sign that hangs inside Michigan City’s Disabled American Veterans Chapter on Ohio Street reads: “GREETHAM HALL.” It’s a tribute to his father Robert “Sarge” Greetham, who served 30 years in the United States Marine Corps. Sarge’s military tenure included three tours in Vietnam and another in Korea. He was shot four times and is the owner of four Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Just as notable, Sarge escorted Danny Bruce home to Michigan City.

From his office inside City Hall, one can see the four-story observation tower overlooking Lake Michigan. Greetham’s grandfather, Oscar Scheberle, was on the Works Progress Administration that helped build it in the mid-1930s.

In addition to his family, Greetham harkens back to the strong influences he received at Marquette. He hastily concedes he wasn’t an overachiever in the classroom, but two people knew success was in Greetham’s future well before he did.

“Ms. Linda Milzarek once told me I had more talent and potential than anybody will ever know. She knew I could be better than what I was. And that meant a lot because I know I was a student that frustrated her,” Greetham noted.

He also lauds the tough love former history teacher, coach, and athletic director Pat Prorok instilled in him. As a freshman, Greetham stood all of 4’10”, and while it was rare for a rookie to make the varsity baseball squad, Prorok couldn’t ignore his work ethic. 

“Coach Prorok took me on the varsity team as a freshman not because I was the best hitter or the best player. I tried harder than everyone else. I had no choice but to take extra ground balls, do more pushups, be the first at practice, be the last to leave, all that. I was probably 70 pounds with a coat and a backpack on,” he said with a chuckle.

It’s that underdog mentality that fuels Greetham some 40 years later as he races around Michigan City ensuring vendor booths are marked properly, overflow parking lots contain sufficient space, permits are approved, and the dozens of other tasks that can be so easily overlooked but yet are so critical to the success - or failure - of an event such as the Great Lakes Grand Prix or Octoberfest.

It’s his entrepreneurial spirit and wherewithal that should make fellow Marquette graduates proud.

And it’s that indefatigable intensity that should give citizens confidence as Michigan City converts potential into momentum. 

“When this job opened up, I talked to my wife, Theresa. I consulted some really good friends and people that I’ve known for a long time. Ultimately, I decided it was time to stop talking about why doesn’t the city do this and why doesn’t the city do that. It’s time to take the opportunity and make the city do these things,” he said.