The Water Follies and Columbia Cup began to change after 1987, but it took a riot in Pasco that made national news to get it done.

Especially starting in the mid to late 1970's, while being a huge tourist boon for the area, the Water Follies began to get a reputation as a major outdoor drinking party, marked by outrageous behavior and lawlessness. Then came the riot.

It's no secret to those who've lived here for years that Columbia Park used to be known as The Zoo, especially during the 1977 Gold Cup races, where an estimated 100,000 people jammed alongside the river to watch.

But the 1987 riot in Pasco brought about the changes we know today. Over the years, the week prior to the race saw more and more parties, drinking and crazy behavior, until two nights before the races, a riot broke out in Pasco. By the time police restored order, some 2,000 people were involved, directly or indirectly. Police used tear gas and riot gear to break up the crowds. The rioters threw bottles at police, and fought each other in the streets.

Officials say the riots occurred when a number of party goers, mostly from out-of-town, began to get rowdy in the streets near the downtown district. Fueled by alcohol, the confrontation spread rapidly, and it took Pasco Police, Benton and Franklin County sheriff's, Kennewick Police and Washington State Patrol troopers several hours to suppress. Windows in shops were broken, and some people were hurt.

It was the same type of riots earlier that year at the races in Kelowna, B.C. that brought their hydro races to an end. They haven't been able to successfully stage a similar event since.

After the riot, major sweeping changes came. More police involvement, crackdowns on public partying, and the creation of beer gardens on both sides of the course. Police also began searching to make sure people in the non-reserved sections were not smuggling their own alcohol or drugs into the park.

It took a few years before many in the Tri-Cities welcomed back the boat race fans, especially from out of town. This picture was supplied by the Pasco Police Department, it was posted the following summer, 1988, and summed up the reaction of many to the out-of-town party crowd. Officer Dave Allen is the one in the photo.


More From 870 AM KFLD