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  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Crew members of the Performance Chevrolet boat, left, make adjustments Thursday at Folsom Lake. Ten H1 Unlimited Series hydroplanes will compete during Big Wake Weekend.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    The Peters & May crew adjust the rear wing of their hydroplane, one of 10 expected to race in the H1 Unlimited class this weekend at Folsom Lake.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Boat chief Aaron Salmon works on a hydroplane sponsored by Peters & May in preparation for Big Wake Weekend, three days of exhibitions, entertainment and H1 Unlimited boat racing that begin today on Folsom Lake.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Workers from Classic Party Rentals adjust a shade structure over a preferred seating area.

Folsom Lake to host races of 3,000-horsepower hydroplanes

Published: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 6:27 pm

On Thursday at Granite Beach on Folsom Lake, Bob Richards was the man.

"Hey, Bob," called the cotton candy vendor.

"Hey, Bob," you're needed at the media tower.

"Hey, Bob," where does the Drewski food truck go?

Such is the life for the man with the plan hours before the arrival of the 30,000 people he expects to watch some of the fastest boats in the world turn Folsom Lake into a racetrack.

The weekend of racing, dubbed Big Wake Weekend and featuring beefy hydroplane boats, marks the first time in 46 years that the top level of boat racing has taken place in the Sacramento area.

Ted Grange, pit boss for the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Boat Series, said the size of the lake, climate and population make Folsom Lake an ideal site. What was missing was a promoter, he said.

Richards, who has years of experience promoting NASCAR, IndyCar and other motorsports, said that after seeing a hydroplane demonstration at Folsom Lake two years ago he decided to get involved. With many of the same players who have helped him promote car racing involved, Richards said he's confident they can create a great experience.

"We leveraged the Sonoma Raceway infrastructure. They have done it for years," he said.

Thursday afternoon, a fleet of workers and trucks were busy transforming the black asphalt parking lot into a temporary city.

"This has all gone up today," offered Skip Maggiora, founder of Skip's Music, standing by a freshly erected stage.

Rows of bleachers and covered "sky boxes" were ready for action, the media tower was a work in progress and the speakers needed to be hoisted. Then there was the placement of all the food and other vendors.

Across the way was a line of 10 brightly colored boats with sleek panels hiding an insane amount of horsepower – 3,000 to be more accurate.

But when it comes to Unlimited boat racing, "unlimited" doesn't really mean "without limits."

"They have restrictions, because if they didn't, people would blow up engines all the time," said J. Michael Kelly, a Seattle driver at helm of the boat emblazoned with the Performance Chevrolet logo for the weekend.

Accidents do happen.

An accident at the tour's last stop in Doha, Qatar, forced another Washington-based team, Unlimited Racing Group, to bring a boat they've never raced to Sacramento.

"We're very excited to get on the water and see what it can do," said Shannon Raney, the Unlimited team manager.

The accident in Qatar was so bad that her team decided it would be easier to buy a boat that someone else had wrecked and fix it up, rather than try to fix their own wrecked boat.

Raney said she loves her job, which she defined as: "Anything that doesn't make the boat go faster."

She said the team booked into a hotel in Roseville and will need to find a place to unwind in the evenings.

The teams and the crowds they bring should be good for the local economy, merchants and public officials said.

Folsom Mayor Steve Miklos said the event may be in Granite Bay, but he is expecting a huge benefit to the city of Folsom. He said hotels are booked and a big weekend is expected in Historic Folsom.

Jim Snook, owner of Snooks Candies on Sutter Street, said he already is seeing a few extra people along the old town stroll.

"Sure, in Roseville you have shopping, but with Folsom you have the historic district. You have shops, restaurants, all within walking distance," Snook said.

One Granite Bay business was ready for the action; another was planning for next year.

"It's going to be a busy weekend," said Sam Malhotra, owner of Lakeside Beverages, right down the road from the event on Douglas Boulevard. He said he's increased his stock by 30 percent in anticipation.

Hairdresser "Orlando" Gonzales, who owns West Palm Salon, is excited and already planning ahead.

"Next year, I'm going to sell big-ass brimmed hats and battery-powered fans," he said.

"Everybody in the Folsom Lake region will benefit," said Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler, who represents the Granite Bay area. "There is plenty to go around when you embrace an opportunity like this."

Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.

IF YOU GO

What: Big Wake Weekend, three days of speedboat racing, picnics, live music and beer gardens.

When: Gates open at 6 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, Granite Bay.

Cost: Tickets - $19 for Friday, $39 for Saturday and Sunday - can be purchased at www.bigwakeweekend.com or at 7165 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay (tickets will not be sold at the event site).

For more information: www.bigwakeweenend.com

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ed Fletcher



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