Last weekend was the 9th annual Flat Bottom Boogie event in Kingsburg, California. Kingsburg, if you are not familiar, is a small farming town located off of Hwy 99 just south of Fresno. Its one of those towns where if you blink you’ll miss it. Luckily, I didn’t.
There’s not much going on there at any given time. But once a year, the Kings River comes alive with the sounds of big block horsepower strapped to the back of flat bottom boats for the annual Flat Bottom Boogie hosted by Club Royal Oak RV Resort.
This was my first time attending this event, so I was exited to see what it was all about. And since the new “Dog & Andy’s” V-Drive Regatta is the following weekend at Windmill cove on the California Delta, I decided to make a week long vacation out of it where I would hit The Flat Bottom Boogie on the way up to NorCal, visit family in Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, then hit Dog & Andy’s the following weekend with my Dad. He’s an old circle boat racer from the 70’s, and he still loves this kind of stuff.
I arrived at Club Royal Oak Saturday morning, just in time to catch the National Anthem. The venue was nice with a full RV Campground alongside the river, which made for great viewing. The launch ramp was in a cove, which made for a perfect staging area. This is where the boats sat tied up to the beach waiting to make their hot passes on the river, which also made for an amazing display of hardware.
As I was shooting the boats along the shoreline, a woman walked up behind me and asked if I got any shots of her boat. I asked which boat, and she pointed to a white Cole TR2 tied up in front of me with the name “Mayor” emblazoned on the transom. Unsure of her direction, I asked… “this is your boat”? She said “Yes! My husband built it for me!” As I chatted with her I learned more about the build. Her name was Theresa Boyce and she was the Mayor of Exeter, California – another small farming community approximately 30 miles from Kingsburg. She told me her husband was an engine builder and boat racer and she had complained to him for years that they didn’t have a boat they could actually use at the river because, she said… “because, of course, you can’t use a race boat at the river, right?” Chuckling at her comment, I listened as she continued. “So I said, build ME a boat. I want one I can drive!”
Being the obviously good husband that he is, he found a hull and proceeded to build her the boat of her dreams. By looking at this jolly woman, you would never guess that she had an affinity for fast boats. But there she was, showing off her hotrod, and proudly proclaiming her status as owner of this beautiful machine. And proud she was. Not only of her boat, but of her husband for pulling off such a feat. Apparently, the first day he had it in the water for testing was the day before, while preparing for the show and he had worked his tail off to make sure it was done on time. And with the name “Mayor” painted on the back, there was no mistaking who’s boat it actually was. Theresa was a pretty happy customer. And the best part was that he found the hull for sale on RiverDavesPlace.com!!
From there, it was time to make my way over to the rivers edge. Not having shot there before, I wanted to make sure I had a good spot lined up from which to shoot. As I made my way to the riverbank, I learned that all of the spots were reserved by both permanent and temporary campers. Apparently, these spots are private, and the campers had the right to ban spectators from trespassing on their campground.
For me, it wasn’t a problem because not only did I have a press pass, but I approached the owner of one of the spots with respect and nicely asked if I could shoot from their camp. Luckily for me, they not only graciously agreed, but one of them – a nice lady named Judy – brought me several waters throughout the day to stay hydrated. I appreciated it so much, and was once again humbled by the inherent good in people when you show them some respect. Several others throughout the day didn’t take such a kind approach with their request for access and were quickly rejected and booted off the property. Still, I did sympathize with the spectators who were left with a very limited opportunity for viewing after paying their admission.
The host resort had the river shut down to through traffic for the event. This allowed them to set up a buoy course for running the boats. The river in this spot almost didn’t look wide or deep enough to allow these high-speed passes. But I quickly learned that this was to our advantage. From the green grassy shores of river, under the cool, deep shade of the large trees that lined the banks, we were up close and personal with the boats as they ran. It was an excellent spot for viewing, and I was grateful for the access.
I didn’t get an official count, but I would guess there were approximately 50 boats registered for the event. Not all of them made passes on the river, but those who did were allowed two passes each. They were also allowed to split them up if they wished, or make both of the back to back. This worked well for a few who had engine trouble on their starts, and it also made for a great show when others made theirs back to back. Tony Scarlata was there and did several passes in various boats, by owners who wanted to see what he could pull out of their machines. His obvious speed differences and handling of the boats made it clear why he is a multi-year championship driver. And it was definitely a treat for the fans.
All-in-all it was a fun event. And with the exception of the hot weather and limited access to the good, shaded viewing areas, I would say its definitely worth a try if you’ve never been. Just make sure to plan ahead for accommodations, and be prepared to spend some money to get in as they don’t allow any outside food, drinks or coolers unless you’re camping in one of the sites.
That’s it for this week from Kingsburg, California. Keep an eye on the page next week for part two of my California road trip coming to you from Dog & Andy’s V-driver Regatta at Windmill Cove on the beautiful California Delta.
Until then, happy boating!