A change in rules for pop-up canopies on the Pasco side of the Columbia River at Water Follies is keeping some people away.
Darin Oman of Pasco has been to the first 48 Columbia Cup races but won't be there this weekend.
Last year was the first year of a rule change that requires people who set up canopies along the shore in Wade Park to remove them each night and come back the next morning and try to get a spot again.
Tri-City Water Follies officials say the canopies were blocking the views for other race-goers, and that people who want to have a large party should pay extra to do so.
Oman previously left his 10-by-50-foot canopy there for the entire three-day event.
But last year he had to take everything home, arriving back at his house at 7 p.m. Saturday. Then be back in line at 5:30 a.m. to get a good spot when gates opened at 7 a.m.
He no longer wants to do that and said others agree.
"I have email after email from people who are fed up with it and are not going because of it," he said. "It's doing absolutely nothing to promote more attendance. It's doing exactly the opposite."
Oman brings in guests from as far away as Alberta, Canada, and California, with 100 people visiting his tent during the weekend. He said he typically spends $500 to $1,000 during the weekend, and knows others who spend more who say they won't be coming back.
Event Director Kathy Powell said people who want to set up large tents in the general admission area and leave them up all weekend should rent a tent in the reserved hospitality area
The rule change is part of a plan to improve viewing access of the river and the hydroplane races, Powell said.
"Everybody who comes in for a general admission view should have equal opportunity to come down and get a spot on the river," she said. "We've had complaints from our general admission guests that they are staring at empty tents for two days."
But making people take down their canopies and put them up again won't improve the view, Oman argues.
"It's not like I'm setting up a tent larger than I use," he said. "My tent is packed with people."
Oman presented Water Follies board members with a list of 150 names he gathered along the shore last year, all opposing the rule change.
And he's upset people who set up canopies along the river on the Kennewick side can still leave them up all weekend.
But Powell said Columbia Park has more than 200 recreational vehicle spaces and its too difficult to sort out which people brought a canopy from home and which are staying in an RV.
Instead, Water Follies has improved walkway access to the river in the general admission area on the Kennewick side, she said.
Oman said he agrees that some things shouldn't be allowed, like canopies on tarps that can kill grass and canopies set up but not used until Sunday afternoon.
But he feels Water Follies should post rules at the event explaining what can and can't be done with canopies.
"The fans are willing to help, they've just never had a clear set of rules to go by," he said.
Powell said the Follies association board will review how the rule changes go this year and see if anything needs to be adjusted for 2015.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom