While watching hydroplane races from Columbia Park in Kennewick on Sunday, Tim Kenney was wistful about the days he and his brothers watched their own boats making roostertails on the water.
He and his two brothers, Joe and Jerry Kenney, all of Seattle, used to sponsor their U-5 unlimited hydroplane through the Toyota and Volvo dealership they operated with their father Frank.
Joe said they have attended races for years, including the Columbia Cup at Tri-Cities Water Follies.
The brothers even had their own boat built for themselves, but it flipped and crashed, nearly killing their driver, Joe said.
Weve been infatuated with it since we were kids, Joe said.
Even though its been 25 years since they were boat owners, the three brothers continue to join the thousands of people who lined the banks of the Columbia River in Kennewick and Pasco on Sunday for the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup.
The Kenney brothers got out of racing in 1987, a year after they finished fourth at the Columbia Cup, and they dont have the dealership anymore, but they still make it to races including Water Follies regularly. And they maintain friendships with members of boat teams.
Its also fun now, Tim said. Youre not as stressed.
But theyve recently begun racing again, though on a smaller scale, with radio-controlled models of unlimited hydroplane boats and offshore racers.
This keeps us in it a little bit, Joe said.
Attending Water Follies was a family affair for many spectators this year, including the Alford family, who watched from the Pasco side. The family has made Water Follies a venue for its family reunions for the past 20 years.
This year, the Alfords rented two inflatable water slides, a bouncy castle and an inflatable maze to put in the familys backyard, which faces the river from Pasco, said Jimmy Alford, son of Bryan Alford, who owns Alford Farms in Pasco.
More than 100 people attended their party this year, some from as far as Virginia, he said. But the party was more about family than the races.
The boats are more like background noise for us, Jimmy Alford said.
For those who wanted to watch the boat races or air show, the Alfords rented a platform that lifts folks 35 feet above the ground so they could see over the official park grounds.
People attending Follies on both sides of the river this year gave mixed responses when asked how busy the event appeared this year.
Ashley Case of Richland was sitting with her family in front of the driving range for Columbia Parks golf course, using a plethora of brightly colored umbrellas to shield them from the sun.
She said their location was perfect. They could face Columbia Park Trail for the Water Follies parade, then turn their chairs around to catch the boat races.
However, the crowds appeared smaller than in recent years, she said.
It seems weird because its not as hot (as in the past), Case said.
Brandi Mackenzie of Langley, British Columbia, said shes attended the Water Follies for three years, driving down to Kennewick with her boyfriend.
She said she was having a good time in the Lagoon Saloon beer garden and noted that parking wasnt as packed as in the past.
I dont want to say it, but it is quieter this year, Mackenzie said.
On the Franklin County side of the Columbia, officials said the general parking lot off of Road 54 and West Sylvester Street in Pasco was not as full as in previous years.
The space between rows of cars is much bigger this year, said Nick Terrones, a Seattle resident who has volunteered at the races for the past nine years.
More than 100 vehicles were parked Sunday at the lot, which charged $10 per vehicle.
Private property owners along West Sylvester Street managed to sell some parking spaces too.
Bob Becker and his son-in-law from Spokane, Mike Kembolt, charged $5 a vehicle to park on their gravel lot. This was the first year they sold parking spots, and 16 people parked in their lot Sunday.
With their attention focused on their business, the two did not attend the races.
I sit over here on the lawn and watch the air show over the trees, and thats enough for me, Becker said.
Across the street, Dick Moore of Kennewick and his nephew Tanner Berglund sold all of the parking spaces in the family-owned lot. They charged $15 and $10 a vehicle, depending on the day, bringing in more than 200 vehicles.
The family has run the parking lot for more than 12 years, Moore said.
Most people who park here do every year, so we know them pretty well, Moore said.
Others, though, werent so sure the crowds were smaller.
Jenny Cox, a bartender in the beer garden in Columbia Park, said she and other employees kept busy through the weekend.
Barb Littrell of Kennewick was wading in the river between heats with her granddaughters on the western end of the park. She said she has attended the boat races since 1971, when she was 18 years old. She said she hadnt noticed a difference in the crowds compared to past years.
And the Water Follies continue to draw newcomers. Tyler Peck and his girlfriend, Keslye Llewellyn, both of Spokane, came down for the weekend at the invitation of a friend.
Peck said he grew up in Yakima but never attended the boat races. Now, though, with everything the event has to offer, from the air shows and games, they said they will be back.
Wed been here two hours and we hadnt seen a single boat, but this is awesome, Peck said.
Pasco police Sgt. Mike Monroe said Sundays crowd on the Franklin County side looked to be as big as last year.
We measure the general crowd size by the depth of the tents along the river, Monroe said.
This year, the depth of tent rows varied from one to three, but they stretched end-to-end across the park.
Despite the large attendance, no crimes took place in the park, Monroe said.
There was plenty for people to do at the Water Follies in between heat races, thanks to a number of vendors.
The strongman game operated by staff for Degree Men was popular in Columbia Park throughout the weekend, with 20 to 30 people routinely lined up to play.
Degree Men director Ryan Ferguson said it was the second year the company offered the game, providing beach towels for participants who showed enough muscle.
Some people keep coming back trying to win that beach towel, Ferguson said.
Recruiters with the Washington Air National Guard set up a Gyro-Ball ride at their booth. Steve Furfaro, recruiting supervisor for Western Washington, said despite the stomach-turning appearance of the attraction, only one person has been known to become ill after riding it.
And while vendors arent usually the main attraction for those attending the Water Follies, Furfaro said the ride provides a fun side interest for people who decide to spend their day at the event.
Its fairly pricey to get in here, and (the Gyro-Ball) is one of the few things thats free, he said.
Some spectators brought a whimsical sense of fun to their fashion choices, particularly their hats.
The green foam frog hat and red bandanna sported by David Salmon of Seattle was one attention-getting example of Water Follies haberdashery.
Much to the displeasure of his wife, Carla, the hat has become a boat race tradition since he bought it at the boat races 20 years ago.
It gets the fans excited, said Salmon, who watched from the Franklin County side.
Terry Brains colorful umbrella hat has kept his shoulders shaded and head cool for the past four years. The Pasco resident has attended the races off-and-on since the 1970s.
But Brain is alone in his love for the hat. His son, Trevor, refused to walk with his dad while he wears it.