Jim DeLoretto, a Portland businessman who helped make the Tri-City Water Follies the family-friendly event it is today, died Friday at the age of 57.
"He's like an honorary Tri-Citian," Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said of DeLoretto, whom he refers to as "Jimmie D."
"He's quite a good guy. I'm going to miss him," said Watkins, who served as president of the Water Follies in 2001.
The event draws about 60,000 people to watch hyrdoplane races from the shores of the Columbia River every summer.
DeLoretto, president and chief executive officer of Starplex Corp., died while he was in Medford taking care of a real estate company he owns there, Starplex's director of operations Randy Scott said.
"Basically, his heart just stopped," Scott said.
"It's been like a real shock to the people who knew him," said Karen Miller, a manager/director of the Water Follies from the early 1980s through 1999.
Miller recalled DeLoretto becoming a local fixture at the Follies after riots broke out in Pasco two nights before the boat races in 1987.
"It was a time when, frankly, the boat races had gotten pretty rowdy, a spring break atmosphere" she remembers. "We needed some help with that."
As a result, Water Follies staff members called DeLoretto at his business that was then called Crowd Management Services.
"The big thing was he was able to help us come up with different opportunities to have better control over the crowd," Miller said.
The Water Follies implemented several changes as a result. It set up beer gardens where Water Follies visitors could enjoy alcohol in a more controlled atmosphere. CMS staff members started checking to make sure visitors weren't bringing their own alcohol in at the gate.
DeLoretto also helped locals find ways to move traffic more smoothly over the course of the three-day event.
Miller said CMS staffers not only helped during the event, but also helped plan beforehand to make sure things ran smoothly.
"We had a wonderful partnership with his company and the (Kennewick) Police Department and the Water Follies volunteers," she said.
"He loved coming here and being part of the team," Miller continued. "He was a real team player." Likewise, DeLoretto cared about his employees and treated them like family.
Watkins too was impressed with DeLoretto and his staff members' handling of the Water Follies.
"They were great folks that do security as you need it, but they also told folks how to go to X, Y and Z," he said. "They were ambassadors as well as security."