The ‘Water Follies’

This weekend is what we in Kennewick call ‘Boat Race Weekend.’  It’s official name is ‘Water Follies.’  What it is, okay, is an air show and hydroplane races on the Columbia.  It’s the big annual event here, and happens in Columbia Park, which is one of the few things that was done right from the city’s earliest development. Our entire river shore, all 5-6 miles of it, is a park.  Some is nearly undeveloped, despite the best efforts of corporations to turn it into a profit center, and the best efforts of certain Distinguished Statespersons to permit this.  However, Boat Races isn’t really much happening anywhere else in the Tri-Cities, except on the opposite (Pasco) river shore. It’s fairly easy for most of us to avoid, long as we don’t have to go over the blue bridge at the wrong time.

“So what, J.K.? In what universe do we care?”

Credit to

fol·ly  (fl)

n. pl. fol·lies

1. A lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight.


a. An act or instance of foolishness: regretted the follies of his youth.
b. A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.
3. follies (used with a sing. or pl. verb) An elaborate theatrical revue consisting of music, dance, and skits.

4. Obsolete

a. Perilously or criminally foolish action.
b. Evil; wickedness.
c. Lewdness; lasciviousness.

Well, we may certainly assume there will be a lack of good sense exercised. Why this should be a civic virtue eludes me. Then I look at the way the city runs, and maybe it’s just a frank moment of civic intellectual honesty. All right, but why celebrate foolishness? Why call these ‘follies?’ Aren’t we supposed to put our foolishness in the closet with Uncle Fred, not out on the lawn with the Travelocity gnomes for all creatures great and small to see?

I suppose it is a very costly undertaking, and does have ruinous outcomes. It somewhat ruins my weekend, for example, if I had hopes of going to the park.  Boats blow over, people get drunk and sunburned, and all this for the sake of a sport that has to rig itself; that sounds ruinous. As I understand it, if you win too often, the sport’s organizers nerf your boat so it doesn’t get boring. (Even though this is limiting, it’s technically called ‘unlimited’ hydroplane racing. Oh, okay.) Imagine requiring Michael Phelps to swim with ankle weights on. Essentially, though, hydro racing is Nascar on the water, in nearly every sense but the duration of action. Nascar takes a lot longer.

Okay, very well, there’s another meaning: a vaudeville show or its modern incarnation. Saturday Night Live is mostly ‘follies.’ Tony Orlando and Dawn also was. (And you had blocked them from your memory until this moment, hadn’t you?) That one doesn’t apply at all.

There will be perilous and criminally foolish action, such as young people drinking too much, and boats blowing over. Someone could break his neck, drown, etc. Evil and wickedness? Seems pushing it to me. There’ll be a few boat race pregnancies, and probably someone will end up in the ER for being drunk, but neither of those are evil or wicked, just folly. Lewdness and lascivious used to be the order of the day, where (I am told) “What happened at Boat Races, stayed at Boat Races.” Yeah.  This from most of the same people who call east Kennewick and east Pasco ‘bad areas.’ I do not really believe them. I think they remember it through a lens that imagines the event more bacchanalian than it really was. Populations are very capable of a collective dementia in which they distort the past perception.

In the end, though, the title ‘Follies’ is unintentionally candid. A bunch of people will get together and some of them will show great folly. They will watch a sport that meets a couple definitions of folly, though not the ones the event planners intended. About the only thing not a folly is the air show, which is cool.

Best of all, I can watch that from my deck, go nowhere near Columbia Park, and stay out of the way of folly. But if you like that stuff, hey, party on.

2 thoughts on “The ‘Water Follies’”

  1. As you know, we have Sea Fair. Ug. Same phenom. But J.K., I part ways with you on the air show if by that you mean the Hell’s Angel’s, I mean Blue Angels, and their shrieking waste and wanton courting of susceptible young men for duty. Also, “Travelocity gnomes” “Nascar on water”…LOL.


    1. Who we get for the airshow depends, Christi. One year we had the Snowbirds (Canadian Armed Forces), and there was a lot of whining we didn’t get to see Big Macho Fighters. I don’t mind that aspect myself (the recruiting part); I’m more concerned with how we use the military we have. But look on what is either the bright side or making it even worse, depending on how you see it: it now courts susceptible young women too!


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