Hydro Racing

HAPO to sponsor Water Follies air show

KENNEWICK -- A little bigger. A little louder. A little faster.

The Over the River Air Show at the 2009 Water Follies hydroplane races will have all three elements, officials said Tuesday.

"Our crowd is a very specific crowd. They want loud and fast," said Scott Meyer, air show director. "It'll be a more well-rounded air show this year."

The diversity of acts, some of which still are in the works, largely is a result of HAPO Community Credit Union's decision to sponsor the air show again this year, officials said.

"I know how much to spend and which acts I can look at," Meyer said. "It gives me a very solid footing."

HAPO opted to sponsor the event again because of the show's importance to the community.

"It's a good logical fit to be a part of the summer fun," said Steve Anderson, HAPO executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The sponsorship is a two-year commitment with an option for a third, he said.

The lineup so far includes a B-25 Mitchell performance World War II bomber, a Coast Guard helicopter, an F-15 and a special op's sky diving team.

The air show was the second-biggest draw for visitors at the 2008 Water Follies, according to a survey done by the Washington State University Tri-Cities Business Club.

Students were commissioned to survey guests by the Tri-City Water Follies Association to "establish a demographic profile of Follies guests, to assess guests' perceptions of the events and services provided, and supply the association with information about the event's economic impact," according to the report.

Hydroplane races were the biggest draw and the atmosphere came in third.

About 24 percent of guests surveyed were Follies first-timers, while 44 percent had been to the event more than five times.

Mike Denslow, Follies president, said the survey will be used to focus marketing and to ensure the event lives up to people's expectations.

"We'll analyze it so we can better deliver what people are looking for," Denslow said.

The report also will be helpful when recruiting sponsors, he said.

People of all ages and incomes came to Follies in 2008, according to the report. And in addition to time spent at the races, people also ate at restaurants, shopped, used the river trail system, went to movie theaters and wineries and played golf.

For more information about the Water Follies, visit www.waterfollies.com.

* Ingrid Stegemoeller: 509-582-1537; istegemoeller@tricityherald.com