If there was ever a perfect day to visit downtown Coeur d’Alene, Friday would have been it.
Only a handful of families sat on the beaches near Coeur d’Alene City Park, and afternoon patrons of downtown shops seemed sparse.
But about a mile down the road were signs that something bigger was coming: dozens of food vendors lining the lake, families breaking out their camping gear and a line of cars defiantly parked next to signs that read “No parking by police order.”
Diamond Cup and H1 Unlimited hydroplane racing returned to Lake Coeur d’Alene on Friday, and for the first time in 45 years, crowds converged on the lake to watch the water fly.
Joe Spinelli, who travels to the Tri-Cities and Seattle every year to watch hydroplane races, sat with his friends Dave Germain and Steve Lefler in lawn chairs, binoculars strapped around their necks and the reflection of the sparkling lake in their sunglasses.
Spinelli was only a teenager the last time the hydroplanes raced on the lake. He never went then, but he remembers watching it on television with his family.
“I’m glad to see them come back,” he said.
Germain, who said he loves any kind of race and often drag races himself, said it’s fantastic that the races came back to the area.
“I’ve always wanted to see this,” he said.
Despite the long line of cars along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive, the crowd of people seemed sparse farther down the lakeside. Stands and dining areas had only a few families in them, and one vendor called her business “hit or miss.”
Choppy water from high winds slowed the racers Friday afternoon, forcing hydroplane drivers to stop until the weather calmed.
Perhaps it was just a lull before the races get roaring today toward Sunday’s championship, but some fans said they preferred the quietness.
Stacy and Bobbie Stang, of Cusick, Wash., have been to the races at the Tri-Cities, but Bobbie Stang said it’s too busy for his taste. Stacy Stang added that she preferred the layout of the Coeur d’Alene races.
However many people end up coming this weekend, Stacy Stang said she’s just glad the hydroplanes have returned.
“Any kind of motor sport close by is great,” she said.