Olmito Lake Regatta attracts thousands

Special to the PRESS

The talk around the Valley in 1927 was about the First Annual Regatta at Olmito Lake. It was advertised as a spectacular water show by the fastest boats of the era. John Rutledge, who was in charge of the event said, “Citizens who are planning to turn out to the regatta need not be afraid that they will be compelled to see a lot of slow races.”

The mile course was prepared with stakes placed as frequently as possible. The turning skills of the men piloting the boats where tested as the engines and boats themselves were on the straight-aways.

As soon as the sun showed its face over the horizon on Easter Sunday, thousands of people from throughout the Valley were seen making their way to beautiful Lake Olmito. The three o’clock race attracted 5,000 people. While many were taking their front seats long before the races started, others were taking in the splendor of the shade trees, bathing and picnicking.

There were many thrills and one spill in which Frank LaRoche received an injury to his arm. LaRoche, who was handling one of the fastest boats in the lake belonging to Al Parker of La Feria, was practicing turns at one end of the course when the only accident occurred.

The accident provided a thrilling moment even before the races began. The overflow Easter Sunday crowd saw LaRoche cutting too close to a stake at the end of the course which led to a collision heard throughout the lake.

The boat flipped over and LaRoche was instantly under the boat and the tiller caught him on the arm, gashing it to the bone. Although the motor saw its last day, the boat was towed to shore and equipped with another motor and the show went on…

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