Federal cuts didn't influence Water Follies attendance

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldAugust 5, 2013 

water follies lamb weston columbia cup

Scenes from Pasco, Kennewick and above on Sunday, July 28 during the last day of the 2013 Lamb Weston Columbia Cup. Helicopter ride courtesy of Inland Helicopters in Spokane.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Federal budget cuts didn't sink attendance at this year's Columbia Cup hydroplane races

About 60,000 tickets were sold for the three-day event -- about the same number as last year, said Kathy Powell, event director of the Tri-City Water Follies Association.

Department of Defense budget cuts known as sequestration kept U.S. military jets from participating in the HAPO Over the River Airshow.

A F-22 Raptor fighter jet was scheduled to perform between the hydroplane races.

"If we had the F-22 here, attendance would have been a lot bigger," Powell said. "Hopefully, we'll have that next year."

The Coast Guard also had to pull support from the event, leaving the association looking for extra boat patrol volunteers.

In all, 1,200 people volunteered to help with the patrols and other needs.

Powell said she also believed the weekend's hot weather kept some spectators away from the shorelines.

The Pasco side of the river, however, had a noticeable increase in attendance, though official numbers aren't kept on how many people go to each side of the river, Powell said.

"I think people are just discovering that area," she said.

Draws to the Pasco side include a wide grassy area running along the shore and easier access to the water.

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said the private tents that are rented on the Pasco side provide more space for the same price as the tents in Columbia Park in Kennewick.

Watkins credited Water Follies organizers with letting people know of the options on the Pasco side, which he called more "family friendly."

"I think Water Follies, especially here in the past half decade, have done a good job through marketing," he said.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young praised the good turnout with no problems on the Kennewick side.

"It seemed to be more calm, even than the last few years," he said. "There were many more families involved. It seemed to be better coordinated this year."

While the air show may have been shorted, Watkins said the 48th annual hydroplane races made up for it. He expects the event will continue to help fill the area's hotels and restaurants each year.

"That's a big-time tradition, and it proves that we're the best race course on the circuit," Watkins said. "The drivers and crews love to come to Tri-Cities."

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