It's hard to imagine a Tri-City summer without the hydroplane races. That roar on the Columbia River in late July is tradition.
And like all traditions, the thought of losing it is heart-wrenching.
But across the hydroplane circuit, money is becoming scarce and communities are struggling to keep the competition going.
Not so in the Tri-Cities, which is rock solid and ready to go. The hydroplanes come to town today and race during the weekend, giving the Tri-City economy an estimated $3 million boost.
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Unfortunately, not all communities have it as good as we do. Evansville, Ind., had to cancel this summer's hydroplane races, and that venue had been going strong since 1979.
Seattle and Detroit both barely got the money together to keep their cities on the hydroplane circuit this year, while San Diego left the schedule two years ago.
It's a shame this year's schedule for the H1 Unlimiteds includes just five races. It's especially worrisome that two of them almost didn't happen.
If any community needs to find out how to sponsor hydroplane races and be successful at it, look to us.
There was a time in 2007 when the Tri-Cities was in the same position as Seattle and Detroit. Money was low, and if Lamb Weston and other businesses hadn't stepped in to save the event, the community might have lost it that year.
But the race survived, and since then the Tri-Cities Water Follies Association and the community have done a remarkable job of keeping it going.
Mike Denslow, Tri-Cities Water Follies Board president, said in the past financing had been year-to-year. Now the group works on it constantly and can weather an occasional slump.
An abnormally hot weekend or winds have been known to keep some people away in the past, but one down year is no longer enough to ruin the chances of holding the event the following summer.
It helps that the Tri-Cities can charge on both sides of the river and that Lamb Weston has continued to sponsor the races and HAPO has agreed to sponsor the air show.
But the best thing the Tri-Cities has going for it is the volunteer support that makes the event work year after year. Denslow said the board can count on 1,000 volunteers to help with the races, which is a good indication Tri-Citians are passionate about keeping the hydroplane races alive in the community.
The excitement gets going today, when admission is free for everyone.
Cost for daily tickets at the gate is $15 for adults and $5 for kids ages 6-12 Saturday, and $25 for adults and $5 for kids Sunday. Children 5 and under are free.
The weekender two-day ticket package is $25 for adults and $10 for kids. They are available at Tri-City Albertsons stores or at the will-call trailer by the Columbia Park Playground of Dreams.
For more information, check out the website at www.hydroracing.com.
Get your tickets and help keep hydroplane racing a Tri-City tradition.