Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Drag boat drivers roar in for Saturday's Duck Race

Steve Anderson putting his drag boat through the paces on the Snake River late Monday afternoon. That's me in the passenger seat, not hanging on for dear life but close. (Photo by Melissa Bristol)
With a 620-horsepower Chevy V8 engine roaring at 160 decibels two feet behind you and the tachometer reading 6,800 rpm, it's hard to be anywhere but in the moment in a drag-racing speedboat.
Nevertheless, there came a moment of calm when I noticed Keefer's Island from an angle I'd never seen before. Neat! Then it was over, gone in the wake.

Yes, Monday was demonstration day for reporters interested in the speedboats coming to the Idaho Falls Rotary's Great Snake River Greenbelt Duck Race, which takes place Saturday. Steve Anderson was on hand with his machine, and rides were made available to those brave enough to take one.

Since 1991, this event has been raising money to help develop the Greenbelt along the river. In its first 12 years, the race raised over $750,000, which has been led to more than $2 million being spent on Greenbelt development -- trail paving the replica of the Taylor Toll Bridge on the spot where Idaho Falls was founded in 1865.

The speedboats, which can reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour, were introduced 12 years ago to make the day more exciting and to raise more money.

"Most of the ducks are sold the day of the race, and people were coming at 4 o'clock," said Mark Baronian, who oversees the boat racing. "They figured if they put on something earlier they might sell more ducks." As a result, sales jumped 25 percent, from $60,000 to $80,000.

For the dragboat race, the field is split evenly between amateurs and pros. The course is 3/16-mile long, a compromise between the amateurs, who wanted 1/4-mile and the pros who wanted 1/8-mile. All races will be straightaway, Baronian said.

A full schedule of Duck Race events can be found here: