LakeFest honors Fry as competition begins

By Lew K. Cohn

and Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

Water will be spraying hard and fast when drag boats zip across Lake Marble Falls this weekend during the 25th annual LakeFest, but it will be hard for pilots not to be reminded the tragic accident that claimed the life of veteran racer Mike Fry last year.

A tribute was held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, to remember Fry and honor his fellow drivers. The festival kicks off in earnest today, Friday, Aug. 12, with qualifying rounds starting at 9 a.m. and continuing into the afternoon.

Competitors and fans alike especially will miss that one entry not in this year's field. Fry, pilot of the Meanstreak II, a Top Alcohol Hydro (TAH) boat, died around 10:30 a.m on Aug. 9, 2015, after his boat disintegrated at the end of a run.

The owner of a California construction company, Fry was pulled from the wreckage by rescue crews and transported by Marble Falls Area Emergency Medical Services to Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Marble Falls, where he was pronounced dead.

It was the first fatality in the history of the races, where drag boats can reach speeds in excess of 260 miles per hour as drivers compete for $100,000 in prize money. While Top Alcohol Hydro drag boats can reach speeds topping 200 miles per hour, they are made to disintegrate, but leave the pilot protected in a capsule in a crash, according to the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series website. Unfortunately, it did not prevent Fry from losing his life, competing in the sport he loved.

TAH pilots Rick Allen of Total Kaos and Steve Streeter of Untouchable honored Fry's memory with a tribute pass later that day.

This year's tribute to Fry was held at the Johnson Park amphitheater, 230 Avenue J, in Marble Falls. Not only did it honor Fry, but “all the racers who participate in the Marble Falls LakeFest,” said Patti Zinsmeyer, executive director of the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Lucas Oil Drag Boat competition.

“Every year when the racers come into town, we hold a barbecue for them,” said Zinsmeyer. “We have added the tribute this year.”

Speakers included Mayor John Packer, Marble Falls Parks & Recreation Director Robert Moss and Park Commissioner Mark McCary, a past Chamber of Commerce president.

“A monument has been created to be mounted after the races at the race outramp,” said Zinsmeyer.

Friday racing and Show 'n Shine

Gates open at Lakeside Park at 9 a.m. Friday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12 years and free for under 6 years. The action will include two qualifying rounds.

This year's LakeFest, which honors the silver anniversary of the drag boat races on Lake Marble Falls, will again feature the free-admission Show 'n Shine at Johnson Park from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, Friday, Aug. 12.

The event brings fans up close and personal with some of their favorite racers and watercraft. Visitors see the boats and hear the engines up close, take photos with their favorites, get autographs from drivers and purchase official race shirts.

The Red Carpet Chaos Band will play in a free performance from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Johnson Park amphitheater.

“They are a high-energy event band,” Zinsmeyer said. “Red Carpet was very popular at the 4th of July Fireworks display.”

Saturday events

Gates open Saturday at 7 a.m. and racing takes place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12 years and free for under 6. Racing qualifying follows a similar schedule to Friday.

During Saturday action, visitors can take time out for Raminator Rides, going on every half hour. The Raminator is a monster truck that holds 8-12 people for rides sponsored by Benny Boyd, a used car dealer in Marble Falls, Llano, Burnet, Bertram, Kingsland, and Spicewood.

Ride tickets benefit a fund for drag boat racers injured on the track and their families. One ticket buys a chance for a Raminator ride.

Two more bands will perform free during LakeFest and both were winners in the battle of bands for spots on the MayFest evening that was rained out.

Lakeside Park will be open after races to anyone who wants to enjoy the original music of Southern Underground, a mix of Texas country, southern rock and blues.

Ain't Never Been is the band scheduled for 8-11 p.m. Saturday back in the Johnson Park amphitheater.

Sunday events

Gates open for final races at 7 a.m. Sunday. Tickets to the races that begin at 9 a.m. and finish by around 6 p.m. are $25 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12 years and free for under 6.

There is no admission to ceremonies for the presentation of prizes to the winners sometime around 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14 at the Johnson Park amphitheater.

In Marble Falls, Johnson Park is located at 230 Avenue J and Lakeside Park is at 305 Buena Vista Drive. The Marble Falls Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce is located at 916 Second Street and the Visitor Center is at 100 Avenue G at the intersection with US 281.

Outside alcohol, food, drinks, pets, skateboards, umbrellas and canopies are not allowed on festival grounds.

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