Editorial: Plan ahead – Water Follies weekend is coming up

Get ready, Tri-Cities. Our guests will be arriving soon.

And if it’s like most years, we’re talking about an estimated 7,000 guests.

This is Water Follies week and that means an exciting time coming up, with the hydroplane races on the river and the art show at Howard Amon Park in Richland.

Both events draw huge crowds and boost business, making it among the most important – if not the most important – week of the year for those Tri-Citians in the hospitality industry.

Tourism is a major economic driver in our community, and Water Follies certainly helps put us on the map. According to the Visit Tri-Cities website, in 2018 visitors spent $560.2 million in Benton and Franklin counties.

Breaking some of that down, $183.3 million was spent on dining establishments, $87 million at overnight accommodations, $76.8 million in retail shops and $64 million on recreational activities.

That’s a significant infusion, and the Water Follies plays a role in making that happen. It draws people in and gives the community a chance to shine.

This year will be the 54th time Unlimited Hydroplanes have raced on the Columbia River, and it is a tradition that brings families and friends together – and even strangers.

The event was started by a handful of community leaders who wanted to find a way to promote our region’s sunny weather and proximity to the Columbia River. In 1965, the group traveled to watch the hydroplane races at Lake Tahoe and returned with a plan to bring the roaring boats to the Tri-Cities.

Our community hasn’t been the same since, and now we can’t imagine a summer without the races in late July.

In addition to the spike to Tri-City business, the HAPO Columbia Cup also provides fundraising opportunities for a number of nonprofit organizations. More than $20,000 goes to community groups who help with parking cars, selling programs, taking tickets and helping with traffic control.

Other nonprofit organizations earn money by selling ice cream and other treats at the races, which in turn helps them do even more good in the community.

The fun gets going on Friday when admission is free for everyone. Fans should go to www.waterfollies.com for information on where to get tickets and find out more about the events schedule.

A two-day pass for Saturday and Sunday is $25 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6-12. Children age 5 and younger are admitted free all weekend.

One-day admission for Saturday is $15 for adults and $5 for kids. Admission on Sunday is $25 for adults and $5 for kids.

For those who want to get a close-up view of the hydroplanes, an extra $10 a day will get you into the pit area. Three-day event passes with admission are $45.

Parking per car in Columbia Park is $5 on Friday and Saturday and $10 on Sunday. In Pasco, parking is free on Friday, $5 on Saturday and $10 on Sunday. You can avoid the traffic and parking fees by taking the bus. Go to www.bft.org to find out more.

In addition to the hydroplanes, the HAPO Over the River Air Show will entertain the crowds beginning at 11:30 am each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For those who prefer our other Tri-City tradition, Art in the Park in Richland will be Friday and Saturday. This is the 69th year for the art show, which is sponsored by the Allied Arts Association.

An estimated 200 artists will show off their work, and there will be entertainment and food. According to the Allied Arts website, the event is counted as one of the 200 best art shows in the nation.

So make your plans early. The weekend will be here before you know it – and it’s a big one.