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Boat races get started with some excitement

DEPUE — It didn’t take long for some excitement at the start of the PRO National Boat Races at Lake DePue Friday.

Drivers were warned about gusty winds that would hit them as they turned into the front stretch. All the boats in the first heat of the day, the OSY 400, came away unscathed with Braxton Miller of Grove, Okla., taking the checkered flag.

Jay Walls of Danville, Ind., however, didn’t in the next race, the first heat of the C Racing Hydro.

Walls’ US1 boat flipped spectacularly front turn on the shoreline dotted by race fans and he went airbone, fortunately propelling himself away from the boat and arm. (See my pictures above).

Walls, 24, has been racing for about 10 years, he said. When I asked him if that had ever happened to him before, he said, ‘No, and I never wanted it, to.’”

There would be two more delays Friday afternoon as the BCR went to press, hopeful that the races would be able to resume into the evening hours if necessary.

• The DePue’s Men’s Club is hosting the PRO National Boat Races for an unprecedented 30-year run, a fact confirmed by longtime PA man, Ray Rodda, who took his own little shower in the press tent from the late morning rains.

The gang with the Men’s Club continues to put on a marvelous show year after year with the help of a lot of good people. It’s what makes DePue such a special place to call home.

The Suarez family returns each year to their hometown for the races, carrying on the family tradition started by their parents. Carol and Jim. Their kids, Brian, Jay, Randy, Mike and Jim Jr., took out a half page ad in the boat race program, wishing all the racers good luck, and at the same paying tribute to their folks, simply saying, “We miss you.”

I remember Carol telling me stories years ago about how she never knew who she’d find sleeping on her floor home during the boat races.

Mike, who bears a spitting resemblance to his father in the picture circa 1979, continues that tradition with his family. He said his wife, Jeannine, was reading a bedime story to their daughter, Riley, the night before, and when they got done, she asked, “When are we going to the boat races?

She got there Friday, all decked with her ponytails right in the front row.

The races are scheduled to resume at noon Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. If you want to see some more spills and thrills, make the trip. Your $3 will be well worth it.

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