It takes a lot to create the Water Follies

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJuly 27, 2012 

Tens of thousands of people will converge on the banks of the Columbia River this weekend for the 47th annual Water Follies.

Most will be there to watch the hydroplane boats race on the two-and-a-half-mile course of the McNary Pool as they strive to win this year's Columbia Cup. They might buy lunch or perhaps pick up a few souvenirs. By Sunday night, most will have left, and the riverbanks will be quiet once again.

But the scale of planning for the event is huge, as is its effect on the Tri-Cities. Numerous agencies, organizations and people spend countless hours preparing and carrying out the event.

Here's a rundown by the numbers of what it takes to put on the Follies and what it means to the region.

w 70,000: The crowd expected to attend the Follies. That's almost the population of the city of Kennewick. It is a lot of people to jam onto a few miles of shoreline on either side of the Columbia River. Organizers and their partners said they take a lot of steps to ensure people are having a good time but also are safe.

w 100: Staff Pro of Spokane will have that many security personnel on the ground through the weekend. This is the second year the company has worked the Follies.

Security manager Mark Williams said the company will bring in its own managers and supervisors, and hire Tri-Citians to direct traffic, provide security and work with the public.

"We're there to assist," he said. "We want to make sure it's a successful event."

w $20,000: That's how much the Water Follies Association is spending to have dozens of portable toilets placed all around public areas on both sides of the river, said event director Kathy Powell. That money also pays for the toilets to be cleaned each morning.

w $15,000: That's to pay to have garbage cans spread throughout Columbia Park and on the Pasco side of the river, with trash picked up each morning.

w 40 to 60: The number of people per day that Kennewick General Hospital staff will assist at two first aid stations it will operate in Columbia Park, said hospital spokeswoman Tamie Bradbury. Lourdes Medical Center will staff the Pasco side.

Bradbury said KGH will have up to four personnel per station to deal with minor medical issues, such as sunburns, insect bites and stings, blisters and heat-related illness. The station also will provide free drinking water in addition to medical attention, which brings even more people to the station, she said.

w 100: Number of tents used for corporate and private organizations, as well as event administration. Follies organizers again used Interstate Tent Rentals of Portland to provide the dozens of tents used during the weekend.

"It was the only company that could support the entire event," Powell said.

Additionally, organizers will have about 25 pop-up canopies set up along the river to serve a number of purposes, including first aid stations.

w 4,000: Chairs for race fans who don't bring their own or have a spot in a corporate tent. Powell said Water Follies rents the chairs to help meet the demand for people who just need a place to sit and watch the boats.

w $2.25 million to $2.5 million: That's how much of a financial boon the Follies is to the Tri-City economy. The differing numbers come from the Tri-Cities Visitors & Convention Bureau and Follies organizers, and they cover everything from hotel rooms and gas to food and souvenirs.

w 6,000: Jordan Youngs with the visitors bureau said that's how many hotel room nights will be rented throughout the weekend. He said that doesn't take into account the people who camp, stay at RV parks or bunk with family and friends.

w 64: Vendors and concessions will line both sides of the river, offering food ranging from Filipino cuisine to funnel cakes, beverages and souvenirs. Powell said there also will be a number of entertainment-centered vendors, including laser tag, a flight simulator and helicopter flights.

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