For two days a year in mid-August, the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is all about how much power and speed a driver can coax from his boat.
But the week's activities leading up to the United States' largest unsanctioned boat race are about a lot more.
That's why people like Greg Semmel, owner of a beloved, Snoopy-themed houseboat named "The Dog House," donate their time and the use of their boats to the week-long cause year after year.
Semmel and "The Dog House" have been a favorite at the Shootout Make-a-Wish rides for four years. At the annual event scheduled two days before the racing begins, powerboaters offer rides to children dealing with serious illnesses and disabilities along with their families. Semmel began offering rides on his houseboat for children who might be afraid to ride the faster boats or who have wheelchairs to bring on the boat with them.
"To watch the kids' faces, how they electrify when they get on the boat ... it's all about making the kids happy," Semmel said.
Several Shootout racing regulars such as the owners of the recognizable Batman and Ironman boats offer rides as well, said Tiffany Riemann, Lake Area Industries executive director who coordinates the Make-a-Wish rides. The Make-a-Wish Foundation of Missouri is one of the many charities that receive funds from the Shootout's proceeds.
Powerboaters returned as usual for the main event on Saturday and Sunday, where audiences watched drivers compete at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour for various Shootout titles including the coveted "Top Gun."
A week before on Aug. 16-17, the week-long boating showcase began with the 5th Annual Mini Shootout at Papa Chubby's Food and Booze in Sunrise Beach, where drivers competed with speedy remote-controlled boats. Old Kinderhook also supported the cause with its presentation of the 2014 Shootout Benefit Golf Tournament.
The Great Shootout Treasure Hunt on Monday headlined a week's worth of entertainment at Captain Ron's Bar and Grill, which also offered free concerts and a volleyball tournament. The boats themselves were on display all day Wednesday for the Shootout in the Park at the Laurie Hillbilly Fairgrounds. Thursday offered the Shootout PWC (Personal Watercraft) Dam Run, followed by the Shootout Poker Run on Friday.
The 26th Annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout wraps up today with races from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 4 p.m. For more information, visit lakeoftheozarksshootout.org.