Hydroplanes hit the water for 48th annual Columbia Cup

<p>Columbia Park</p>

Columbia Park

The wait is officially over.

Hydroplanes finally hit the water today for the 48th annual Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities.

Today, the boats got in the water for testing and qualifying, and Columbia Park is packed with fans.

And this is only the beginning of this weekend's events.

After 361 days of calm waters, the hydroplanes are back in the Tri-Cities.

Thousands of people are packing into Columbia Park for the Columbia Cup to catch all the action on the water, despite the hot temperatures.

Even food vendors who are working extremely hard in the heat say being at this event is a must.

"Man, it's one of the best things out here, especially in the Tri-Cities. Year in, year out, the community comes together. It's hot, the water is crisp, you can't beat it" said Derek Perot, Gourmet Soul.

Fans who have been coming to the Columbia Cup for years say with three air shows, more than a dozen races on the water, and just an overall exciting environment, it is hard to pick their favorite part of the weekend.

"Those (pointing to planes), the boats, girls" said Jackson Davis, hydro fan.

Even fans here for the first time say they're having no problems getting involved in the events.

"We wanted to come see the boats and the vintage hydroplanes. They're made out of mahogany wood, beautiful, beautiful boats" said Daniel Colon.

"Everything is great. The people are great. This is all new, the pits, the boats, everything new. I wish my grandson was with me, cuz he'd be running around going crazy" said Rick Telles.

That's because this year, the pits are packed.

There are 28 hydros - 11 of those are unlimiteds.

Hydroplane crews and drivers are refining everything they can as they prepare for the races on Saturday and Sunday.

"So far, the boat is running really good. I think we ran a 1:55 or something this morning, so we're gonna tune it up a little bit and go out and put a good number up there for qualifying. And this is fast water out here in the Tri-Cities" said Jon Zimmerman, driver for Team Red Dot.

"This is the Talladega of unlimited hydroplane race courses" said Steve David, driver for Team Oh Boy! Oberto.

And today's events are just a little taste of what's to come over this weekend on the water.

"Everything is looking good. The park is looking good, the crowds are coming in, great weather and it's gonna be a great boat race" said John Culver, race chairman.

For more information about the Columbia Cup, and to see a complete schedule of events, click here.