Tri-Cities Water Follies deserves 'excellent' award

Earlier this year, the Tri-Cities Water Follies was honored with the first ever "Award of Excellence" at the H1 Unlimited hydroplane banquet, and we have no doubt this coming weekend will show why.

It takes months of planning and hundreds of volunteers to pull off this signature community event, and the Tri-Cities has it down to a science.

At the awards ceremony honoring the Tri-Cities, H1 Unlimited Chairman Sam Cole said, "It's time to reward excellence; recognize the individuals or organizations that go above and beyond." He also said, "From the day you get there to the time you leave (the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup), they are organized."

That's exactly right.

Last year, an estimated 70,000 people crowded along both sides of the Columbia River for the annual boat race weekend, which went off without any major problems -- as has been typical. The event has run smoothly for so many years that the Tri-Cities has earned a reputation for being among the best on the circuit.

Volunteers and organizers are gearing up for another successful run beginning with qualifying runs Friday and culminating in the final races Sunday.

The races will again include the Over the River Air Show sponsored by HAPO Community Credit Union and will feature a variety of air stunts and skydiving to entertain spectators between heats.

The hydroplane races are a highly visible event that puts the Tri-Cities on the map and draws thousands of residents and visitors. Judging by previous statistics, hotel rooms will be filled and millions of dollars will be brought in to the community. It provides a huge financial boost to businesses in the area, and the community should be proud of the Water Follies' great reputation.

It is not just the boat races that make this weekend special to the community. The 62nd Art in the Park show Friday and Saturday in Richland also draws crowds every year. Artists and others selling their wares will jam Howard Amon Park with tents featuring a wide variety of items, including jewelry, pottery, metal art, furniture, paintings, glass art and other unique crafts.

But for those who are most interested in the boat races, the hydroplane fun actually starts later today with the Fueling for Follies event at Washington State University Tri-Cities. The free event runs from 4 to 7 p.m. in the campus parking lot and is a tremendous event for families, especially those with young children who would like to see hydroplanes up close.

Drivers will be on hand to sign autographs, and there will be booths with information on biofuels and hands-on science activities for children.

This is a great opportunity to introduce the kids to hydroplanes while giving them an educational experience as well.

Make plans now to enjoy the weekend. Tickets for the races are at Albertsons stores, and more information can be found at the Tri-Cities Water Follies website, waterfollies.com.

The next few days are pretty iconic in the Tri-Cities, so be sure to take part.