Lightning: Thunder on the Loup


by Sarah Schulz
posted: Monday, 6 August 2012

There were a lot of newcomers Sunday afternoon in the crowd at the 9th Annual Thunder on the Loup.

Thunder on the Loup 2012

Scott Sahling, of Worms, NE, competes in the Big Block modified class for the airboat drag races at the Thunder of the Loup Sunday afternoon. The competition had drivers from ten different states including Texas, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Kansas, Oregon, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, and Nebraska.

“We love airboating,” said Georgia Janssen of Winside. “The Loup is just perfect for this.” Janssen sat in a lawn chair under a shade tent with friends and family along the Loup River banks Sunday. It was her first time at the airboat races near Palmer and, although the races had just gotten under way, she was having a good time. “It’s exciting,” she said. “I love boats and engines.” Janssen attended the races on Saturday as well and said the weather had been perfect both days — and they loved the steak feed Saturday night. She stayed in Grand Island Saturday night because the decision to go to the event was a “spur-of-the-moment” one. On Sunday afternoon, she was already making plans for next summer. “It’s great entertainment,” she said. “And, yes, we will be back next year but we’ll be better prepared.”

Tom Dinsdale, one of the event’s organizers, said there was a big crowd Saturday and over 120 airboats came for the weekend. “It’s a beautiful day in Nebraska,” he said, looking out over the water.

Before the races geared up Saturday, children swam in the river and people waded around in the cool water. Once the boats started up, everyone had to either stay on shore or on the airboats lined up along one bank. A small group of Jeeps was parked on a sandbar downstream as well. The announcer read off the names of the boat drivers along with the names of the boats for each race. Several of the boats had their names — such as Hammer Time, Dr. Evil and Proud Mary — painted on the side or on the rudders on the back. Drivers came from Nebraska, Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Oregon, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa this year. One of the Oklahoma drivers had a Nebraska Husker design painted on the rudders of his boat.

The categories for Sunday’s drag races included big block and small block modified, four-cylinder, six-cylinder, small block supercharged and powder puff. There was also a “bragging rights for fastest boat on the creek” division.

“It just sounded like it would be fun,” said Denise Green of Kearney. Green was at the races for the first time Sunday and she brought family from San Antonio along. “We wanted to show them some Nebraska fun,” she said with a smile.

As the boats roared to life on the river, people milled around on the shore enjoying drinks and food from the various on-site vendors, as well as the goods from their own coolers.

Dixie Codner of Shelton and her husband picked a spot in the shade several yards back from the edge of the river. As first-time attendees, Codner said they weren’t sure what to expect or where to sit for the best view of the action. “I’m interested in seeing the boats,” she said. “We’re just seeing what it’s all about.” The Codners decided to make the drive after hearing advertisements about the event on the radio.
Some of the people who attended the weekend event just came for the day, but a good number camped on the nearby grounds. Campers lined the area around the main race site.

Dave Lewis of Kearney was among those who camped on the grounds for the weekend. He said this was his third time at Thunder on the Loup. “We’re probably gonna come back,” he said with a smile. “We’re campers and you get to meet new people. Like these folks from Kansas who don’t hate us even if we’re Husker fans. They even invited us down to Kansas.” Lewis’ last comment made those around him laugh. “It’s just a good time,” he said. “We’ve made friends here. That’s what’s fun about camping and these events.”

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