Thunder on the Niagara jet boat races returning to NT in August

Benjamin Joe/contributor North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur Pappas addresses spectators while being flanked by officials, sponsors, and partners during Friday's formal announcement about the upcoming Thunder on the Niagara boat race event at Gratwick Park. Behind Pappas, from left to right, are Snyder Steeler team member Mike Geblein, sponsor Tom Snyder, volunteer Pam Hill, event organizer Gary Roesch, Alderman-at-Large Bob Pecaraco, City Clerk Treasurer Matt Parish and First Ward Alderman Mark Berube. 

The roar of the Thunder on the Niagara will soon be heard once again on the Niagara River near Gratwick Riverside Park.

Organizers of the annual jet boat race joined local officials on Friday in announcing the details of this year's event, which is set for Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. This will be the event’s 14th year and it will include three different “kid zones” for families, an antique car show, as well as fireworks and skydivers.

There will also be four different classes of hydroplaning this year, and one displacement class of Jersey speed skiffs. The Snyder Steeler was on display during the announcement for the event. 

“This is probably the one location where you see every mode of transportation,” North Tonawanda Mayor Art Pappas said. “Cars, to trucks, to planes, to trains and especially the boat races that are coming up." 

Pappas saidthe event brings in thousands of people, including area residents as well as Canadian visitors and people from all around the world.

The Snyder Steeler team was excited about the upcoming event.

“We won last weekend up in Valleyfield, Quebec,” said Mike Geblein, who works on the boat. “We race all over Canada and the U.S. We won Valleyfield, this is our sixth time in ten years. Then we won the HLR (Hydroplane Racing League) Championship 2012, ‘15 and ‘17.”

Geblein also said that his team has the world record speed of 172 miles per hour. 

The major sponsor of Thunder on the Niagara, Tom Snyder of Snyder Industries in Tonawanda, a second-generation business that makes precision machine components, said his company is proud to be able to continue to serve as a primary sponsor of the race. 

“To give you an idea of the magnitude of it, we put the sign-up sheet up yesterday, we already have well over a hundred people signed up to attend the event. We’re expecting record attendance in our tent here this year," Snyder said. 

“It’s not just a motorhead event,” Snyder continued. “There’s something here for everybody, from the kid zone to the car enthusiast and, of course, the boating people. We’re looking forward to a good event, a safe event and we wish all the luck to the racers.” 

Other officials at the announcement included Alderman-at-Large Bob Pecoraco, and First Ward Alderman Mark Berube. Gary Roesch, one of the event organizers, announced plans to partner with Twin City’s Community Outreach organization.

“I’m a volunteer at Twin City’s Community Outreach,” Pam Hill said, motioning to the back of her shirt which said Meals on Wheels, Food Pantry, Clothes Closet. “It’s an organization that was formed just for the specific purpose of purchasing and maintain a building to house all those three entities… As a fundraiser, we do the parking every year for them. So, you pay for parking, but the event is free.”

For more information about this year's event, visit