It's hard to believe Water Follies weekend is almost upon us.
And the mild weather sure hasn't made it feel like that time of year, either.
But here it is already, almost the end of July, and organizers once again have a great lineup of events in store for us to enjoy in the days ahead.
The Tri-City Water Follies has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years, evolving to create a more solid financial future for the organization and continuing to draw in the crowds with folks traveling from far and wide to see the hydroplane races and the air show.
The Water Follies brings valuable tourism dollars to the Tri-Cities each July and, after 46 years, it has become part of the very fabric of the community. Traditions among fans are a big part of boat race weekend.
Some use the occasion for an annual reunion with friends and families and most everyone has their favorite spot to settle in for the races.
You can view the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup and the Hapo Over the River Air Show by boat, from a private home with a view of the river, corporate tents or get right in the mix with the diehard fans along the rivershore. And those are just a few of the options.
The private viewing areas on both sides of the river are in such demand there's a waiting list to get one. And they don't come cheap, ranging in price from $1,100 to $5,600 depending on location and that just gets you the space, tickets and a few amenities. Food, beverage and entertainment are all additional costs and that helps pump even more money into the community as businesses flood local merchants to stock up supplies for their tents.
Just the sheer popularity of those private viewing areas is a good indicator of the value of the event to area businesses and others who sign up for sites each year. The event is a way to show-off the community, bring in corporate officers from out of town and entertain clients. Or just have a really good party for your friends with fantastic aerial acrobatics overheard and really loud, fast boats on the river.
We're proud of the volunteers who put on this great event. Not so many years ago there were rumblings that the Water Follies would be no more after it lost its main corporate sponsor and there wasn't much of a rainy day fund in the organization's bank account.
Issues with overly rowdy fans, run-ins with police and an event that didn't feel very kid-friendly at times added to the drama.
But changes and progress have been made to breathe new life and solvency into the event. Families and fun-seekers both can find the proper environment at the event.
Just something about the atmosphere feels better than it did a few years ago.
Forty-six years is a long time to keep an event running and not many other groups have that kind of longevity to adapt and change and succeed.
The event is produced largely by volunteers and we appreciate their work for the community.
Of course, there are still some folks who live here who make plans to be out of town for the Water Follies and we think that's a shame.
If you haven't been to the Water Follies in a few years, it's worth it to give the event a new look. And if you're a diehard who wouldn't miss the boat races, we'll see you by the river this weekend.