Ready, Set, Hydros! Rotary fundraiser still on for September

— Created June 10, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Melanie Hammons

Clean air and water, fresh ocean breezes, lovely views of beach and bay – all these are front-and-center during late summer on Whidbey Island.

The waterside setting makes a perfect showcase for Hydros for Heroes, the charity professional boat-racing competition in Oak Harbor, still set to be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 and 13. Proceeds from the event are re-invested right back into the community, making it a win-win for participants and spectators, according to organizers.

For those who have never attended, this is the summer not to miss, said Craig McKenzie, who promotes and hosts the free event through his foundation, with additional support from sponsors and community volunteers.

“Public health concerns have forced cancellations of so many of the festivals, events, and fairs that make summertime enjoyable for us all,” said McKenzie.  He described the American Power Boats Association race, now in its fifth year in Oak Harbor, as “a really cool event.”

“We are hoping for two things:  One, that the Hydros for Heroes event will be a time of healing for our community; a respite from all the concerns of the past couple of months and quarantines.  And two, that we’ll see some brand-new racing fans out of it.”

The very nature of power boat racing has always mandated that safety must be a top priority, said McKenzie.

“These boats can go 100 mph,” he said. “Right up to race day, we are checking the water conditions in Oak Harbor Bay to ensure there’s enough depth and no driftwood or other obstructions. Naturally, we also closely monitor wave and wind action out on the water.”

That watchword, safety, also describes how Hydros for Heroes leadership plans to address health concerns at the two-day event, to make it safe as well as enjoyable, said McKenzie.

“We of course will be following all recommended guidelines given by health authorities:  physical distancing, frequent sanitizing, etc.  Our food vendors and beer garden are likewise prepared to take the necessary precautions.”

McKenzie said he views it as just an extension of the care they have exercised in previous years.

Organizers said there is an even better reason for seeing this year’s race. Just days ago, the Inboard Racing Commission announced that Oak Harbor would host this year’s Summer Nationals. 

Oak Harbor City Council member Jim Woessner, who is McKenzie’s co-worker at Keller Williams Western Realty and an event volunteer, said there are a couple of reasons for this.

“The beach and bay here offer far more viewable space than many other boat racing venues around the nation,” Woessner said. “Many races around the United States canceled left and right, because of the quarantines and uncertainty about re-opening. Our club offered to host the Nationals, the offer was graciously accepted.”

According to organizers, Hydros for Heroes could not happen without the generous support of its sponsors and volunteers, some of the most active of whom are members of the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor.  Proceeds from the event are donated to the Rotary Club, which in turn funds the Food4Kids Backpack program and college scholarships.  Over the past four years, these proceeds have totaled nearly $100,000, said McKenzie.

Hydros for Heroes has always sought to honor community heroes, McKenzie said, including military, law enforcement, firefighters, educators, and medical professionals. He said the past few months have certainly highlighted how vital these workers are.

Everyone is invited to “come on out to the races” September 12 and 13. Organizers say it’s a great opportunity to take a deep breath of salty air, enjoy the wide-open spaces, and honor community heroes.