Hydros in the Tri-Cities – Beer Gardens first started in 1988

25 Jul

It’s that time of year – Unlimited hydroplanes racing under blue skies, spewing beautiful roostertails with the sun beaming down on droves of onlookers hovering around the Columbia River racecourse.

The 48th running of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup will take place this weekend.

Last year’s final was one of the best since the first running in 1966.

Graham-Beacon finish

Jimmy Shane (Graham Trucking) in a heated duel with J. Michael Kelly (Miss Beacon Plumbing) hit the finish line just a few feet in front.










Bud glassesA huge crowd attended the race and they got their monies worth! If you were drinking a beer during the Final then you were likely in the Beer Garden.

Twenty-five years ago (1988) was the first year the Beer Garden was implemented at the Tri-Cities race.


Lets look back at that crazy day: July 31, 1988









The race took place in 90-95-degree weather before a crowd of approximately 30,000. While the crowd was mostly subdued, police enforced a “zero tolerance” policy and reported a record 391 arrests for the weekend in both counties.








Here were some exerts from The Seattle Times:
Emotions were hotter than the Tri-Cities area’s 90-degree temperatures after yesterday’s final unlimited-hydroplane race on the Columbia River.

Members of several teams said winning driver Tom D’Eath should have been penalized for cutting to the inside of the course during the first lap of the Columbia Cup’s championship final.
As drivers and owners waited for a meeting with Chief Referee Paul McKee, which several thought was a pro forma gesture, they let fly with these barbs:
— Said one owner, “We were fined $100 for not leaving enough room for Jackpot Food Mart in the fifth lap of the second heat.'”
— Said a driver – “One of us will have to get killed before the URC will do something.”
— Said another owner – “Every time we talk about a rules violation, they say it’s a judgment call that can’t be protested.”

Bernie Little, Miss Budweiser owner (as he came across the group en route to accepting the race trophy) – “What’s the matter? We win, and everybody’s mad at me?”

Here were some exerts from the Tri-City Herald:

By Jim Riley, Herald sports editor

Did the Budweiser win the Columbia Cup Sunday by cutting off its opponents illegally at the first turn?

And is the sponsoring Water Follies Association left awash in debt?

Those two questions remain after a race run before a mostly mellow crowd of about 30,000 that Follies executive secretary Ken Maurer estimated was 20-30 percent smaller than last year’s crowd of 40,000.

“I just don’t know if we’re going to make enough money to pay the bills,” said Maurer.

For the third consecutive year the winning driver the checkered flag wave in the breeze and then had the rule book waved in his face.

Tom D’Eath and the Miss Budweiser won the 23rd annual Columbia Cup when written protests by drivers Chip Hanauer in the Circus Circus, Scott Pierce in the Mr. Pringle’s and Larry Lauterbach in the Vantage Ultra were denied.

The controversy over the Budweiser’s win came after D’Eath went into the first turn on the outside, then moved inside in front of the other boats. The drivers felt D’Eath did not leave them enough room.

“We had two referees in the helicopter and one on the inside of the course and they were all in agreement. There were two lanes left inside for the Circus Circus and the Vantage Ultra and as per our rules, there were no infractions,” said chief referee Paul McKee.

“I left them plenty of room,” D’Eath said.

Hanauer drove the Circus Circus after the Miller High Life went down in smoke during the first heat. He made a spirited run at the Miss Budweiser in his backup boat and finished three seconds back.

Mr. Pringle’s was third, with Vantage Ultra fourth. The Holset/ Miss Madison driven by Ron Snyder, was fifth, followed by Mitch Evans in the SEACO Aviation Fuels.

The Miss Budweiser was extensively damaged when it hit something in the water Friday. It was trucked back to Seattle for repairs, arrived back in the pits early Sunday morning and ran flawlessly.

“The crew did everything right,” D’Eath said. “This is their win. They put in 300 man-hours in 24 hours, and boat was 100 percent. They didn’t just patch it, they fixed it permanently.”

Maurer said the smaller crowd “was expected by most of us,” because of the decision to ban drinking on both sides of the river outside of several beer gardens.

The smaller crowd could spell “real serious (financial) problems for us,” Maurer said.

It’s now 2013 and two things are a certain: Beer Gardens and controversy on the water!



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