KENNEWICK -- Water Follies attracts thousands of visitors to the Tri-Cities and pumps millions of dollars into the area's economy.
The annual hydroplane races also help local businesses showcase themselves to the community, and provides many local civic groups an opportunity to raise money.
Corporate sponsorships for the Tri-Cities' signature event are up 10 percent from last year, said Kathy Powell, event director for Tri-City Water Follies. But exact figures were unavailable.
Wingstop, Thompson Hill Cellars and Jigsaw Kids Preschool are among the new sponsors this year, Powell said.
"We want to get our name out to the community," said Dave Tuthill, co-owner of Wingstop restaurant in Richland, which soon plans to open a Pasco location. Wingstop has been open for business for more than a year, but many Tri-Citians aren't familiar with the restaurant, Tuthill said.
A desire for increased visibility and to provide support to a popular community event led Tuthill to become a Follies sponsor.
The Follies' budget this year is close to $1 million, Powell said. Insurance and delivery costs of equipment are up and organizers are spending a bit extra on the air show, she said.
The annual program's advertising budget of $60,000, which supports buying radio, TV and print ads, has helped turn the event into a regional show. Washington Magazine recently had a write-up on Water Follies.
The ad campaign is tied into promoting the Tri-Cities brand as a whole, Powell said, adding she expects about 60,000 to 65,000 visitors. About 15,000 will come from the west side, Oregon and Idaho.
Many of them will stay around, discover the area, visit the wineries and return next year, she said.
This year, the Kiwanis Club of the Horse Heaven Hills is making the Follies experience a little more pleasant for visitors, said Dick Nordness, vice president of the club.
Club members and volunteers will offer rides on the J&S Dreamland Express, a recreational train, in Columbia Park.
"On the weekend, it'll be like a shuttle service," Nordness said. "It's a goodwill gesture, but volunteers will accept donations."
Volunteers from Southridge Music Boosters, which comprises parents of music students at Southridge High, will help with parking cars at Water Follies and get paid by the organizers.
Boat race weekend is the group's biggest fundraising event, said treasurer Frances-anne Hiemstra. The money helps students to pay for next year's music expenses such as band and choir trips, choir dress and marching band camps, she said.
The group, which also organizes fundraiser dinners and charity carwashes, has been helping out at the Follies for the past few years, she said.
"It's a lot of hard work. But kids see it as a fun activity," she said.
The Three Rivers Lacrosse Club members will be selling ice at the Follies and raising money for the club, said club president Ann Shattuck.
"It's a major fundraiser for us," she said.
The money is used to buy new jerseys and equipment, she said.
This year, volunteers will be wearing shirts with the club's logo.
That will be good publicity for the club, she said. Members look forward to being with others in the community and helping raise money while having fun at the same time.
A large crowd on a hot day at Columbia Park means good business for the club, she said.