Jimmy Shane steers the Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison down the front stretch in Guntersville, Alabama last year. HomeStreet Bank is back as the Miss Madison Racing Team’s primary sponsor. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Jimmy Shane steers the Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison down the front stretch in Guntersville, Alabama last year. HomeStreet Bank is back as the Miss Madison Racing Team’s primary sponsor. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
The Tri-City Water Follies Board of Directors have voted to postpone this year’s event to a later date, all but ending the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Series before it ever got started.

The Water Follies Board made the decision on Monday night. Unlike the other three H1 races that have canceled their races for the season, Tri-Cities has kept open the option of holding the race later in the year but no makeup date was announced.

“This decision was not made lightly and was reached after much discussion and consultation with local leaders. With the available Safe Start Washington information, the board members voted to postpone,” Kathy Powell, Event Director, said in a statement. “We have decided that due to the current COVID-19 policies it is not feasible to have an event on the last weekend of July in 2020. We are hoping to be able to hold the event later in the year, and would like to thank all of our fans, volunteers, partners, and sponsors for their support and flexibility during this difficult time.”

Tri-Cities follows in the footsteps of Madison, Seattl, and Guntersville, Alabama in postponing or canceling its event. Only the season-ending race in San Diego, which is contested in mid-September, is still on the schedule. A decision on that race is expected in the coming weeks.

For Miss Madison Racing President Charlie Grooms, Monday’s announcement was not unexpected. But that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

“It’s like a sucker punch for sure,” Grooms said of the cancellations. “But like any sucker punch, you get up, take a deep breath and figure out what to do next.”

This season was set up to be one of the most interesting in the 59-year history of the Miss Madison team. Jimmy Shane and the U-1 Miss HomeStreet/Miss Madison entered the campaign as the defending National High Points Champions and a second boat, the U-91 Goodman Real Estate driven by Jeff Bernard, was expected to make the entire season.

But with the season essentially over, the Miss Madison Team is now left to figure out how to take care of its sponsors without any races to compete in.

“We’re going to go back and regroup,” said Grooms, who has been with the team in some capacity since the late 1970s. “I have spoken to both of our sponsors and they fully understand what the situation is. We still want to go out and represent our city and our sponsors and we now have to figure out the best way to do that.”

One option, Grooms said, is to look at existing sites that are still planning on having events, albeit in the lower classes. Owensboro, Kentucky — which will run a grand prix race in mid-August — is a possible destination for an exhibition while Grooms has said he has been talking with officials in San Diego about what to do for that race site. But so far, everything is still in the early stages of discussions.

“The important thing for us is to get the boats in front of people, whether that is on the water or as a display,” Grooms said. “Obviously we want to help out the (Madison) Regatta any way that we can and there are things that we can do, but we’re still in the planning stages. Right now, everything is on the table.”

Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank is entering its fifth season as sponsor of the team’s primary boat and Grooms said that the relationship is healthy. He has had several discussions with HomeStreet Bank CEO Mark Mason about strategies for this “lost” season.

“Mark and HomeStreet are still very much behind us,” Grooms said. “In the past, we’ve had displays at Seahawks games and such and we would like to continue that any way we can. It’s just a matter of figuring out what we can do.”

Seattle-area real estate mogul John Goodman jumped into the sport this winter with the sponsorship of the team’s second boat, which ran last year as the U-1918 Oberto Quality Meats. Grooms said that Goodman is excited about the partnership with the Miss Madison.

“John is a great, great guy and we’re excited about having them aboard,” Grooms said. “John has a more philanthropic outlook for the boat and hopefully there is something that we can do to promote that.

“The important thing for us to get our faces out there to not only help our sponsors but to help the sport as well,” Grooms said. “Obviously we don’t want the boats to sit in dry dock all summer.”

Both boats have been maintained over the winter and are ready to hit the water. But like the old saying goes, they are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

“We’re just like everybody else right now. We’re not sure what the future is going to hold,” Grooms said. “There are a lot of sports that are in the same situation. But hopefully we can do something in the near future.”