Speed-boat racing on the Allegheny River in Kittanning returns after a 20-year hiatus with Riverbration, from Aug. 19 to 21 at Riverfront Park in Kittanning.
When construction of Riverfront Park halted the annual boating event in 1996, the community felt the loss.
“The racing is back after 20 years,” says Jeff Williams, Riverbration committee member and co-race director for Three Rivers Outboard Racing Association. “Racing stopped when park renovations began, and somehow it was never revived.”
Williams, 65, of Manor Township travels the country participating in boat racing and will compete in two classes with speeds exceeding 65 mph.
And he can’t wait.
“I am most excited that this event is returning to Kittanning. This town has had racing off and on since the mid-1950s and to be able to revive what hopefully will be an annual event for many years to come is especially meaningful to me,” Williams says.
Showcasing APBA Power Boat Racing, the three-day event is the result of a collaborative effort between Hose, Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 in Kittanning and the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce.
It will be hosted by the Three Rivers Outboard Racing Association.
Kevin Kline has spearheaded the project and serves as assistant chief of the fire department. He credits the entire Kittanning community with volunteering and uniting to bring Riverbration back to Kittanning.
“I am pleased that all three Kittanning fire departments and Kittanning EMS will be working toward the success of the event as well as the Kittanning police and public works department,” Kline says. “The event is extremely important as it gives (Kittanning) and our park the spotlight for the weekend and allows people to gather and enjoy themselves without breaking the bank.”
Volunteers have worked for months cleaning and prepping the riverbank in anticipation of Riverbration.
The closed-race river course runs about three-quarters of a mile and is situated in front of the amphitheater. Racing is prohibited around the Kittanning Citizens Bridge because of safety and security regulations.
“We will be racing American Power Boat-sanctioned hydroplanes and runabouts, many different sizes of boats and motors on a course in front of the park,” Williams says. “The racing hydroplanes and runabouts have outboard motors sizes from 9.9 HP to 50 HP.”
Optimal recommended viewing locations for spectators are the boat launch area and the amphitheater. Top speeds expected during some races will exceed 80 mph, says Williams, a 36-year veteran boat racer.
Newcomers watching from the riverbank can expect fast-paced racing, loud engines and a high level of excitement, Kline says.
Lynda Pozzuto, Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber vice president of events, estimates about 40 vendors and entertainers will dot the riverbank and spread throughout the park while the boats are in the water.
“Newcomers should be aware that they need only bring a chair to the park because there will be plenty of food and merchandise vendors to check out,” Kline says.
Food will include pizza, pulled pork, shaved ice, walking tacos, barbecue chicken, a beer tent, hamburgers and hotdogs and ice cream.
The live entertainment Aug. 19 will feature Damon Dash and Mary Lou Scherder playing acoustic guitar beginning at 7 and 8 p.m.
A lighted boat parade Aug. 20 will begin at 9 p.m. coinciding with a performance by the Free Peanuts Band.
A kayak race will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 21. This single race is open to all ages, and the course will be from the bridge to the amphitheater and back to the bridge. Cost is $20, with the winner taking all, Pozzuto says.
The second annual K-9 Kruise-Aid car show, sponsored by the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Department, will begin at 11 a.m. Aug. 21. Registration will start at 11 a.m. along South Water Street. A $5 suggested donation will benefit the K-9 fund.
“In the past, the boat races were something families looked forward to each August,” Pozzuto says. “It was a time of fun, excitement and community working together. With Riverbration, we are bringing that excitement back and showing what can be accomplished if we work together. “
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
When: Aug. 19-21, events all day
Where: Kittanning Riverfront Park, North Water Street
Details: 724-224-3400 or riverbration.com