By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 19, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Thunder could be heard as storms moved in over the weekend, but not all of the roars were caused by thunderheads rolling in, but by boats speeding across the waters of Lake Tholocco.
Hundreds lined the shores of West Beach at Lake Tholocco April 14 to take in Thunder on Tholocco, a yearly event that showcases drag racing boats that reach speeds in excess of 100 mph on the lake's typically tranquil waters.
For many patrons, like Jayden and Heather Childress, civilians from Enterprise, the spectacle was the first time they'd had a chance to see anything move so fast over the water.
"You don't really get to see this kind of thing every day," said Jayden. "We're familiar with boats and we have our own fishing boat that we take out every now and then to go fishing, but the fastest we might even go is maybe 30 miles per hour.
"To see boats moving this fast is a pretty big rush, honestly," he continued. "It's crazy to think that they can even get that fast on the water -- it's definitely not something I'd feel comfortable doing."
Childress' children, Devin and Dierdre, were having the time of their lives, she said.
"The kids were just so excited to come out here today," said Heather. "This is a pretty new experience for them, and we've taken them to see drag races before, but nothing quite like this. They're familiar with boating, so it really fascinates them to be able to see these boats racing across the water."
Competitors in the race came from Florida to Louisiana to compete, and the races were closely regulated and monitored to ensure drivers complied with all official race rules, as well as to ensure the safety of the races and those in attendance, said Melissa Kelley, Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation lead recreation assistant.
During the event, people were also able to enjoy a wide array of food choices, as well as other recreation activities, such as bounce houses to keep children occupied between race times. In addition to allowing people to enjoy the event, the race was a good opportunity to introduce people to what West Beach has to offer.
"This is a great opportunity for newcomers to come and experience all that West Beach recreational area has to offer, including our famed fishing dock, shaded picnic areas, playgrounds and the swimming area (which will officially open on Memorial Day weekend)," she said.
"Speed boat races have a loyal following, but not very many people actually get to see them, especially military families, so it's an opportunity to witness this exciting sport up close," said the lead recreation assistant.
Although the Childress family said they more than enjoyed the event, Lake Tholocco has become a staple in their lives, as well as an important part of their children's childhood.
"Ever since the kids were really young, we've been coming out (to Lake Tholocco) for swimming, birthday parties and just to hang out on the weekends," said Jayden. "It's a lot closer than driving to the beach, that's for sure."
"It really is one of our favorite places in the area, so I'm grateful that we have something so close that we can take our kids to," added Heather. "Being able to come to stuff like (Thunder on Tholocco) is just a bonus."