“It’s gonna get wet!”
“It’s gonna get loud!”
That was the message that announcer Kay Myers Brewer boomed over the PA system on Saturday afternoon during the Fifth Annual Kenmore Hydroplane Cup on the Sammamish Slough.
She then informed parents to cover their children’s ears as one of the noisiest boats was preparing to zoom across the water.
That racer followed through with Myers Brewer’s warning and shredded up the slough to the crowd’s delight.
Kenmore youngster Rowen Wintermute had this to offer about the roaring sound of the hydros: “It’s OK. You know, it could be louder.”
Rowen added that she was impressed at how fast the boats were traveling for their size. Her mother, Tiffany, noted about the races: “I think they’re fantastic. We’ve come out every year since we’ve had it. It’s the history of it, too, where they used to do it on the slough earlier.”
From 1933 to 1976, crowds between 40,000 to 80,000 packed the slough banks to watch the races. According to an earlier Reporter article, organizers halted the event after a boat accident in 1976 and as permitting and insurance costs became a burden.
The free event blasted back into existence in 2014 and drew about 3,000 spectators a few years ago. A few hundred were on hand early on Saturday as the rain appeared on and off throughout the day. People watched from the 68th Avenue bridge and down below near the water.
After local artist Amberly “Gaul” Culley organized the Sammamish Slough race exhibit at Kenmore City Hall in 2013, the idea to bring the races back popped into people’s heads.
Kenmore Mayor David Baker gave an enthusiastic speech at the opening ceremony on Saturday.
“This is very exciting for us,” he said. “I wanna see this thing going again. I can’t wait for the 10th year.”
He said the hydro folks are a high-class organization, adding that they are conscious of the environment. There were a lot of doubters in the city when the hydro races returned, but they’ve dispersed, Baker noted.
From noon to 4 p.m., 20 racers — from kids to adults — launched their two- and three- cylinder outboards from the Kenmore Boat Launch on 68th Avenue for a timed exhibition race with only one boat at a time hitting the river. Racers cruised around a buoy at the entrance to the slough upriver past the boat launch and Squires Landing, around the bend to the right and around another buoy at the Kenmore city limits, and back to the boat launch, as described in a press release. Back in the day, the races went as far as Marymoor Park, 13 miles away.
Daren Goehring of Marysville notched the fastest average four-lap time of the day in 3:15.65.
In junior action on a shorter course, Fynn Peterson of Seattle registered a top time of 1:23.08 and Jack Peterson of Seattle zipped through the course in 1:41.17.
At least one of the boats didn’t make it into the race early on Saturday when its motor wouldn’t cooperate with the driver. “That sucks,” said one attendee.
Before the races began, JW Myers III of Kenmore prepared one of his dad’s boats from the late ’70s for the current event. Both his dad and grandfather raced on the slough back in the day.
“I grew up over by Kenmore Junior High and I went to Inglemoor High School, so I went across this bridge every day for three years, and I always wanted to rip up and down the slough without getting arrested and I think this is gonna be my opportunity,” Myers said with a laugh.
Former racer from the ’50s through the late ’70s John Laird, 85, brought a boat to Saturday’s event for someone else to drive.
“It was a lot of fun,” he remembers about the old days. “To be honest, there wasn’t a lot to do around Seattle in those days, so we give the people a chance to come out and have a picnic and hope somebody crashed in the bank.” He noted that the crashes he’s referring to weren’t serious ones.
When the races went farther up the slough, “The biggest thing was trying to keep from hitting the Bothell bridge. In fact, one year, somebody put a big sign with a bull’s eye arrow on the bridge,” Laird said as he chuckled.
Organizer Jan Shaw used to attend the races in the ’50s with her dad in the area near the recently closed Wayne Golf Course, which is now a park.
“A lot of people, a lot of excitement,” she remembers about those days. “And we create that same kind of excitement now by going up the river. There’s people standing out on their docks up there; there’s a trailer park up there, they’ve got a party this afternoon in the rain.”
Shaw said that before the event — which also featured seven vintage inboards for show — they honor the river with a water blessing on what is Muckleshoot tribe land.
Jan’s husband Howard, the chief referee, said people are interested in the races again, including Laird and other drivers from the ’60s and ’70s who attended the event on Saturday.
“We took a chance the first year and said, ‘Well, let’s see if we can put it together.’ Working with the mayor of Kenmore, he went to bat and kind of stepped out and got us the OK to go partially up the river in the Kenmore area,” said Howard, noting that they try to expand the course each time out.
The night before the event, nearby 192 Brewery held the 5th Annual Hydro Happy Hour, which featured hydros on display.