Hydro Racing

Water Follies is back -- make plans for 2009

What a great Water Follies we had.

Gone this year was the public begging for money to make the event possible.

It wasn't long ago when management problems and a lack of oversight by the board of directors left the Water Follies in the red and struggling.

In 2007, the event almost didn't happen because of a cash shortfall. But that was then.

Lamb Weston/ConAgra and several local businesses stepped in and saved the day, keeping the tradition alive.

But Water Follies didn't turn the corner overnight. The event struggled last year and seemed lackluster in the end.

Maybe it just felt that way because we were tired of the on-again-off-again roller coaster leading up to the last weekend of July '07.

We encouraged the board members to run the event like a business, find new sources of revenue and make it solvent once and for all.

You know what? It took another year, but they pulled it off.

We didn't hear any last-minute public cries from organizers for help to save the event. They quietly went about their business, launched a full ad campaign right after the Fourth of July and put on a great event.

The mild weather was a boon for spectators, but a little windy out on the river. Corporate tents were the hot spots to be, and the Pasco side was at a capacity for those popular venues.

On the Kennewick side, some business owners went all out, with swimming pools and air-conditioned outhouses.

Ben Franklin Transit provided great service for spectators. The air show showcased some spectacular flying over the river. And the hydros performed as they always do -- loud, fast and full of surprises.

One of the few downers of the weekend was when a spectator's boat caught fire. A black plume of smoke shot up over the river during an afternoon race Sunday, destroying the pleasure craft but avoiding any life-threatening injuries.

Sheriff's deputies were outin full force on the river all weekend, checking out boats and boaters to keep everyone safe.

On land, there were arrests for drunken driving and a few other alcohol-fueled offenses. In all, about 50 people out of an estimated crowd of 60,000 over three days were charged. No one let a few bad actors spoil the good time.

Whatever the change in philosophy and/or organization with this year's Water Follies, it worked.

Organizers say the event may have drawn a record crowd. Estimating an audience that spans two shores of a river involves a lot of guesswork, but it's clear that Water Follies 2008 was one of the best attended and managed.

Congratulations to the Water Follies staff, directors and volunteers. It feels like the event is finally back where it needs to be, and the spectators are turning out to prove it.

See you on the Columbia the last weekend of July 2009!