Riots: Setting the record straight - Coeur d'Alene Press: Editorial

Riots: Setting the record straight

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Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:39 am, Wed Sep 4, 2013.

A lot of thunderboat fans report they had a riot at the races last weekend. That's "riot" as in a heck of a lot of fun; not "riot" as in fights, tear gas and overnight accommodations courtesy of the county sheriff. By this measure alone, Diamond Cup 2013 was a roaring success.

But what about those riots? You know, the ones that allegedly sank the hydroplane races for more than four decades?

We dipped into the research bucket, examining news stories in both The Press and the Spokesman-Review. We also checked out some blogs that included information by local people who said they were there. We further interviewed a well-known gentleman who witnessed what happened and offered the best explanation we've heard yet.

While there were some variations in accounts, here's our best stab at summarizing what actually happened:

* The first hydroplane "riots" - the ones many old-timers agree were the worst - occurred on June 23, 1961. Fights and broken windows were reported in downtown Coeur d'Alene, and police used a fire hose and tear gas - and some National Guard muscle - to break up the crowd estimated at 200 to 300. Forty-one people were arrested.

* In 1962 police needed to disburse a larger crowd - estimated at 500 - but because they were prepared, damage was reported as minimal.

* In 1963, after the Saturday races, The Press reported an estimated 1,000 "young people" were gathered downtown after the Saturday races, with many of them on Sherman between 3rd and 5th streets. Two windows were broken and 80 people were arrested, but Police Chief Reine Schmidt and Sheriff John Bender said the crowd never exceeded the "unruly stage."

* In 1964, the Aug. 4 Press reported: "Saturday night's riots also proved to be successful for law enforcement but not for some of the 300-400 young people who tried to start something." The article said most of the participants weren't local, and the teen who was charged with inciting a riot was from Spokane.

* In 1965, the races went on despite the Coeur d'Alene City Council refusing to lease property to Diamond Cup organizers for spectators and race pits. Record crowds were reported; the police chief said, "At no time was there any indication of major trouble," and "Disturbances were practically non-existent."

* In 1966, no serious trouble was reported.

* In 1967, because of financial trouble that had accumulated for years, the races were canceled.

* They returned in 1968 and despite the police chief saying it was the biggest hydroplane audience he'd ever seen, there were no reports of crowd trouble.

So what was behind the alleged riots? According to Duane Hagadone - who was there - the races "became the summer get-together for college students in Washington and Idaho, and there was no place to put them - no hotel rooms." Hagadone said, "They were up all night and they had a party. What the hell else are you going to do? And what do you do with 2,000 or 3,000 drunken kids?"

How bad was it? "I was right there," he said. "It wasn't that big - two windows were broken - but it wasn't good, either. It wasn't good."

Every source we could find indicates that the races were discontinued not because of unruly college kids, but because of money. That highly successful race of 1968? According to the Spokesman-Review, it turned a $581 profit.

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