This weekend, two vintage unlimited hydroplanes will run on Lake Sammamish for the first time, as part of the Tastin’ n Racin’ festival.
“In the ‘60s, the hydroplanes and their drivers were the sports heroes of the kids in Seattle. There weren’t any Mariners, Seahawks or Sonics, so we idolized (the hydroplane drivers),” said John O’Brien, one of five organizers of the festival.
“This festival is about the wonderment that you see when you look out on the lake and there’s a boat going 140-150 miles an hour with the propellor throwing the rooster tail 50 yards behind it,” said O’Brien, of the Issaquah-based O’Brien, Barton, Wieck and Joe law firm. “It’s like a ballet on water, but violent. It’s beautiful to see.”
Issaquah resident Dixon Smith owns the Miss Bardahl, and Sammamish resident Steve Compton is one of the owners of the Miss Thriftway.
“These are unlimited hydroplanes of the 1950s-60s vintage — they’re kind of the equivalent of antique cars,” Smith said. “Both of the boats had a very significant race history with lots of wins.”
Smith and his brother worked on the Miss Bardahl as mechanics in the 60s, paying their way through college. Decades later, the boat was in disrepair and not being run anywhere.
“We decided it would be really cool to get it back up and running,” Smith said. So the brothers spent five years, a considerable amount of effort and a “reasonable amount” of money repairing the boat. “It was a monumental project.”
The other big new addition to the festival this year is a motorcycle pledge ride to benefit Edmonds-based Max Foundation.
Sponsored by the XLSR Sport Bike Club, the pledge ride and culminating motorcycle show is still open to anyone interested in riding, said Joshua Ellingson, vice president of the club and owner of the XLSR Racing Team. The ride will leave from the Lynnwood 44th Street Park N Ride at 9 a.m. Saturday; registration starts at 8 a.m. For more information, visit www.xlsrracing.com.
The Max Foundation provides services around the world for patients with blood cancer, as well as their families and caregivers.
“We’re very excited to be participating in such a big event,” said Nataliya Semez, development officer for the foundation.
The Max Foundation was established 10 years ago to honor Max Rivarola, who died of leukemia at the age of 17. Originally from Argentina, his parents started the foundation to help people here and around the globe get connected with services, resources and support. It now serves more than 12,000 families in more than 100 countries per year. For more information, visit www.maxaid.org.
The pledge ride, motorcycle show and vintage unlimited hydroplanes are just three of the numerous activities the organizers have planned for this weekend’s festival, which will be today, Saturday and Sunday.
John O’Brien organizes Tastin’ n Racin’ along with Christ Courtright, Jon Courtright, Bob Book and Craig Cooke. The festival came about because more than a decade ago, O’Brien mentioned at a Chamber of Commerce meeting that Issaquah should consider a second festival centered around hydroplanes — because O’Brien has been racing hydros as an owner and crew member for about 17 years.
Each year, the team has added a few more elements to the festival, with the help and cooperation of the State Park, King County Marine, City of Issaquah, Eastside Fire and Rescue, King County Fire District 10, Overlake, Virginia Mason, private security guards and a professional water rescue team, O’Brien said.
“It’s still exciting to see it all come together,” he said.