It’s been 45 years since the last hydroplane races were held on Lake Coeur d’Alene, but that changes this Labor Day weekend with the Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Race.
The Diamond Cup has had a particularly checkered history in Coeur d’Alene, which author Stephen Shepperd painstakingly details in his new book “Hydromania: A History of the Diamond Cup.” Evolving from the summertime regattas that started back in 1913, the first competitive boat races were held 1958 and continued every summer until 1968, when the races just stopped.
The main reason for the Diamond Cup’s long absence was, Sheppard said, a lack of funds and volunteers, as well as prize funds for the winning racers that ballooned beyond practicality. On top of that, police officers had to be called a number of times because of fights that occurred in the downtown area during the race events.
“There were some civil disturbances downtown, but the bottom line is the people that put on the first group of races got older,” Shepperd said. “Times had changed, and younger people weren’t getting involved the way they were in ’58.”
Since the late ’60s, there were several attempts to bring the race back that never got off the ground, but complications – legal red tape and a lack of sponsors consistently among them – kept the plans at bay.
Now the Diamond Cup is back in a big way, and it’s being marketed as a family event featuring food vendors and a series of concerts with local acts the Fat Tones and Strange Brew.
But Shepperd is convinced that the power and excitement of the race itself is enough to turn the Diamond Cup back into a Coeur d’Alene tradition. “If you’ve ever been exposed to boat racing, it takes hold of you and it won’t let go,” Shepperd said.
“It’s a rich piece of the history of our area,” he added. “In the past, some darn fine people worked pretty hard to put on an activity that helped the community. A lot of people benefited from the years the race was here. The hope for the future is for that same thing to happen.”