News: Seafair spectacle brings fun to land, water and air
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis
Thousands gathered at Genesee Park and Lake Washington with blankets, binoculars and cameras this weekend to check out the Boeing Air Show and Albert Lee Cup as part of Seafair, “Seattle’s Summer Celebration."
The Boeing Air show, featuring the U.S. Navy’s premiere flight demonstration team the Blue Angels, rocked the Seattle area all weekend with thunderous jet engines, high speed stunts, and precise, split-second maneuvers that serve as shining example of the dedication and discipline associated with military service.
Six year old Tukwila native Eduard Fuentes pointed to the sky as the Blues roared overhead.
“I like the noise of the engines,” Fuentes said excitedly. “It’s my first time seeing them [the Blue Angels].”
On the water, a rainbow of colorful hydroplane boats waited in the Stan Sayres Pits area to be unleashed upon the waters of Lake Washington for the Albert Lee Cup, where boats rocket across the water, just like the planes overhead.
“Seafair is the biggest event in the state of Wash., where the numbers are well over a million with the live coverage and the spectators,” said “Smokin” Joe Souza, driver of the U.S. Army sponsored UL-9 hydroplane boat.
The Wilmot Racing team showed off its boat for the first time at Seafair, sporting a refurbished body, rebuilt engine and black and yellow paint job that highlighted its main sponsor.
“It’s a brand new engine. It’s a rebuilt boat,” said Gary Thor, crew member and Army veteran. “Whether we win or not at this point is academic. I hope we perform well and that we are competitive.”
The number nine team, lead by Souza and crew chief Josh Hyatt consists of several military veterans who, along with their team counterparts, take pride in the job they perform as well as the people they represent.
“We’re fortunate because a lot of members on the team are prior service [military] people and we served with honor, and it’s kind of a way that we can show off that pride we had in serving,” said Thor, a former officer in the U.S. Army. “In life, if we can fulfill some of our passions and have fun while we’re doing it, it doesn’t get better than that.”
“To represent the U.S. Army is my passion. To represent the armed forces is my passion,” said Souza, a former Sgt. 1st Class in the U.S. Army. “My passion is to get out to the people, the general public that if it wasn’t for all of our men and women of all armed forces…they wouldn’t be here and be able to enjoy this.”
“Our family has always been pro-service and pro-military,” said Jim Wilmot, co-owner of Team Wilmot with his wife Karen.
Beyond sporting the U.S. Army logo all over the hydroplane and their uniforms, the Wilmot Racing team volunteers and assists community outreach programs such as the Warrior Foundation and Soldier’s Angels.
The team worked together with Seattle Recruiting Battalion, Gamewardens North West Chapter and Make-A-Wish Foundation to put together a dream-filled day Aug. 6 for Austin Binkerd, who is diagnosed with leukemia. The day consisted of a seaplane ride, followed by a ride on a military-style patrol boat and concluded with a final gathering at the Wilmot Racing pit area.
The pit was filled with uniformed soldiers, VIPs like Maj. Gen. James Collins, the pit crew and in the center, the Binkerd family and Austin, who sported a U.S. Army football jersey and beret. Spectators took pictures as Austin and Souza boarded the hydroplane to let Austin sit in the driver’s seat.
As the entourage moved out so Souza’s team could prepare for their next race, he gave one final message for everyone currently serving in todays military.
“Keep up the good work,” Souza said. “Thank you for your service. You serving today is giving me the opportunity to come out on your behalf.”