Since 2007 the small town of St. John has been the Daytona International Speedway of sprint boat racing as teams from across the country flock to Webb’s Slough to compete for prize money and prestige.
Cut into a rolling hillside, Webb’s Slough started slowly with one race a year, but quickly added a second date and other activities to the site, including a fun run to be held next month.
Providing a fan-friendly atmosphere for taking in the unique style of racing was the goal when it all started, according to Amanda Webb, who owns and operates the site alongside her husband, Matt.
Creating an event that aids the local business community also played a role in building the slough, she added.
“One of the main reasons we dug Webb’s Slough eight years ago was to bring new people to St. John,” she said. “On Friday nights we hold our show and shine and technical inspections downtown to show off our wonderful businesses.”
With a population of about 550 people, it seems that nearly everyone in and around St. John steps up in some way to help ensure the event goes off without a hitch, Webb noted.
“It takes about 100 volunteers to put on a race at Webb’s Slough,” she said. “We rely on the services of the St. John Fire Department, Rosalia Fire Department, Steptoe Fire Department, Colfax Fire Department, Whitman County sheriffs, Washington State Patrol, MedStar and Whitman Hospital to provide the best care to our fans and racers in attendance.”
Webb and the slough’s staff are constantly working to make the site among the best in the sport. During each season work is done in ways that returning fans notice immediately while also making an impact with new spectators.
“We pride ourselves on making improvements to the entire venue each year,” she said. “To enhance the fan’s view (this year) we added more safety cabling to the fence surrounding the track. In July we added a VIP beer garden bar. Adding this bar has given our VIP fans much more square footage in the garden.”
As the venue has grown more popular, so has the sport, which now has two sanctioning bodies and events held across the country.
Sprint boat racing pits a driver and navigator against the course. No side-by-side competition takes place; the winner is the team that can run the course in the shortest amount of time. The boats produce more than 1,000 horsepower and have a roll bar over the driver and navigator.
Action this weekend features Modifieds, 400 and Unlimited divisions competing in separate races, with each class able to cover the course in less then a minute.
Webb believes that the St. John site is among the best in the sport, she said.
“If you have never been to a sprint boat race expect to become an instant fan,” she said. “All walks of life love this sport. Webb’s Slough is a spectator’s paradise with six lush grass-covered terraces, an oiled gravel road entrance and perfect viewing from every seat in the house. …
“(This weekend’s) race will be sanctioned with American Sprint Boat Racing. We attract the top teams with the biggest prize purse, professional volunteer crew and a venue setup perfect for racers and fans alike.”
Festivities get underway Friday at 5 p.m. with safety inspections and the show-and-shine event on Front Street in St. John. Spectator gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday with qualifying at 10.
For those interested in spending the weekend on the Palouse, camping is available at the Slough without a reservation beginning tonight and running through Saturday. A free shuttle bus will be provided for those camping who would like to take in the show-and-shine event on Friday, Webb noted.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.BrownPaperTickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006.