It’s going to be a loud summer in the Tri-Cities.
More hydroplane boats, more jets and more music are headed to the region for the season’s six popular events, starting with the free summer concert series in Richland’s John Dam Plaza and ending with Water Follies in late July.
HAPO Community Credit Union will be the primary sponsor of all the events for a seventh year.
“We couldn’t be more tickled this year because its going to be a big show,” Steve Anderson, HAPO’s executive vice president, said during a Thursday news conference.
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Giving people in the Tri-Cities something to look forward to is a big task every summer, officials said, but they also are focused on growing the events from outside the Mid-Columbia.
Part of that effort will include creating new events in the coming years but making the traditional summer fare bigger and more irresistible to others throughout the Pacific Northwest is a crucial first step.
“We want to brand ourselves as the festival cities of the Northwest,” said Lori Mattson, president and CEO of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers said they already have a great lineup for the Live @ 5 concert series, which starts May 28 and continues every Thursday until July 23, and are still on the prowl for more.
Cool Desert Nights, Richland’s annual cruise event, is aiming for 800 car entries when it takes over Richland’s Uptown area June 25-28.
And Pasco is hoping to again bring thousands to Memorial Park and its downtown for the annual Grand Old Fourth of July Parade.
Some new is mixed in with the old.
The River of Fire Festival at Columbia Park will have its annual fireworks show celebrating Independence Day, but the event for the first time will feature live music from 4 p.m. until the fireworks begin, said Mike Morgan of TownSquare Media. There will also be cooling tents, making it more comfortable to stick around for the day.
Water Follies will be an even bigger cap to the season this year.
The Gold Cup, which was tethered to a race in Detroit for decades, is returning to the event and celebrating its 50th anniversary. That means more hydroplane racers will be registering, and they’ll entice many more visitors to attend.
“Bringing that trophy to our golden anniversary is amazing,” said organizer Kathy Powell.
The Over The River Air Show that accompanies Follies will do its share to live up to the occasion, said organizer Ron Hue.
An F-16 will perform in the show for the first time in five years and in a first for the event there will be a group of six jets, called the Patriot Jet Team, performing. Such planes have previously only performed at airports in the region.
“You’re going to get a tired neck,” Hue said.
Improving this summer’s offerings while maintaining their family friendly feel was critical, said Crystal Contreras, HAPO’s communications director, and the credit union takes its role as a community sponsor seriously.
But the long-term strategy to give more people a reason to visit the Tri-Cities, spending money on hotels, restaurants and local stores, is also important, said organizers.
“If you look at Oregon, Washington and Idaho, we are right in the middle, and we have this wonderful climate,” Mattson said.