Boats will pour into Wildwood Park this week for another major event at the site.
But this one will be unlike any the park has held before.
The East Coast Drag Boat Association will make its first ever stop in Columbia County, holding races on Clarks Hill Lake on Saturday and Sunday. The races will be quarter-mile, head-to-head events where outboard boats will reach speeds of up to 120 mph.
Think Fast and Furious on water.
The weekend also will include a high speed shootout, where single-engine outboards will try for speeds of more than 160 mph.
"There are going to be guys that are just going for all-out speed, period," said Joe Horvath, the vice president of the ECDBA.
Horvath said the shootout will be the first of its kind the association has held the past five years. He also said the organization hasn't had a safety incident in the same time span.
Various rescue personnel will be on hand for the events and Columbia County will provide ambulances, security and dive teams.
Horvath said that while incidents on the water are rare, there is always the possibility of something going awry, especially in the cases where the light boats are almost hovering over the water.
"Safety is our main concern," Horvath said.
Wildwood Park program coordinator Jeb Bell said all his camp sites were booked for the weekend, and that he had received numerous calls from people throughout the Augusta area inquiring about the race. Bell said he expects a large crowd.
Horvath said the association's smaller events, with little publicity, draw close to 1,500 people, and that the marquee event, held July 4 in Tennessee, brings in crowds of 30,000 spectators.
"We're expecting a pretty good-sized crowd," Bell said.
Boat ramps at Wildwood Park will be closed Saturday and Sunday, as will the cove into which the ramps extend.
The park will be open to spectators at 8 a.m. both days, with $5 admission for each car. The shootout will be held Saturday morning, weather permitting.
The remainder of Saturday will be spent testing boats. Sunday's races are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
The shootout will run five-eighths of a mile, with a half-mile "shutdown." Global positioning systems and a Columbia County Sheriff's Office radar gun will be used to clock speed, with the top speeds earning racers part of a $1,000 purse.
Racers will compete for the same purse during Sunday's quarter-mile races, and $1,000 also will be split among the three racers who traveled the farthest to compete in the event.
Horvath said most of those who compete are involved in the boat business -- either as dealers, manufacturers or engine repair services.
Horvath is an exception. He owns a closet business franchise in Greenville, N.C.
"I'm really into boats," Horvath said. "It gives me something I like to play with."
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