Water Follies called a success

July 29, 2013 

Despite a light crowd Friday, attendance on the Pasco and Kennewick sides of the river was strong during the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup races, said event director Kathy Powell. Ticket sales through the Water Follies office were good, and Powell expects the final ticket count to be in by the end of the week.

“The crowd looked fabulous on the Pasco side,” she said. “It really picked up for us on the weekend. In all, we had a very good turnout.” About 1,200 volunteers worked throughout the weekend setting up tents, directing parking and assisting crews in the pits. Extra boat patrol volunteers helped on the water after the Coast Guard had to pull support from the event because of federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

The feedback from the estimated 40 vendors who sold food and merchandise along both sides of the river was positive, Powell said. The number of food vendors is limited — about 10 percent of this year’s vendors were new — to ensure there is a steady flow of business, she said.

“Some vendors were a little worried after the slow start on Friday,” she said. “At the end they seemed to be very happy with the sales. For the most part, all of them did well.”

Temperatures in the 90s was a problem for some race fans during the weekend, Powell said. Most people were dehydrated and able to stay in the park after drinking some water, Powell said.

The two first aid tents didn’t deal with any serious injuries and treated people for minor injuries caused by swimming in the river, said Tamie Bradbury of Kennewick General Hospital.

“There were a lot of injuries from people hitting rocks in the river,” she said. “We dealt with stubbed toes and minor cuts all weekend.” This year, more focus was placed on trying to control the amount of alcohol people drank during the races, Powell said. The beer garden on the Kennewick side stopped selling drinks a half-hour before the races ended.

The Kennewick Police Department and Water Follies staff came up with the plan to stop selling beer early after seeing problems last year with people drinking too much, Powell said.

“We were more proactive about that this year,” she said. “Everything went smoothly.”

So smoothly that Kennewick police called this year’s crowd the “most well-behaved crowd on record.”

There were officers and deputies in the park from six agencies, including the Yakima Police Department, said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office also helped patrol the Columbia River.

Police contacted 1,130 people in the park and arrested four of them. Two people were arrested for outstanding warrants, one person for driving under the influence and one person for criminal trespass.

There were nine citations issued for marijuana and alcohol-related violations, Lattin said. The sheriff’s office also assisted in arresting a boater Saturday for driving under the influence.

It was even quieter on the Pasco side, as no arrests were made and no citations given out, said Pasco police Capt. Jim Raymond. There were two DUI arrests in Pasco throughout the weekend.

“The boat races crowd has changed over the years,” he said. “It’s not the big weeklong party it used to be.”

The Washington State Patrol changed the way it patrolled the highways for the weekend, resulting in more DUI arrests, Sgt. David DeVere said. Instead of focusing solely on Columbia Park, troopers were spread across Benton and Franklin counties on Highway 240, Interstate 182 and Highway 395.

The result was 21 people were arrested for DUI over the weekend, compared with 15 in 2012, DeVere said. There were seven collisions, and one involved a driver under the influence.

“Because we netted so many DUIs, we kept the roads safer,” DeVere said. “We are calling it a success this year.”

Cleanup started after the races ended Sunday night and will continue until the middle of this week, Powell said.

Volunteers and work crews were busy taking down fencing and signs Monday as the clouds over the river provided some relief from the heat. Small work crews from the Coyote Ridge Correction Facility in Connell and the Twin Rivers Group Home in Richland helped in the effort.

More than 27 tons of garbage were taken from the park over the weekend, according to Waste Management in Kennewick. The company had 500 extra garbage containers at the event.

“Hopefully by Wednesday it will be hard to tell we were in the park,” Powell said.

Powell already has gotten calls looking to reserve tents for next year’s Water Follies. She said that looking forward to next year, there could be some changes with how tents are allowed to be set up along the Kennewick side of the river.

Water Follies staff is worried people’s views are blocked by the tents, which are allowed to be set up on a first come, first served basis, Powell said.

“It would frustrating to someone who has never been to the event before,” she said. “It’s difficult for people to see. I suspect the biggest hurdle to overcome next year will be how to manage the shoreline.”

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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