His sausage-and-jerky company — Oh Boy! Oberto — has sponsored a boat almost every year since 1975.
Art Oberto has just taken the ride of his life. The 88-year-old is cooling off in the shadow of a canopy in the Stan Sayres Pits on Friday afternoon at the 65th annual Seafair.
“I’ll try to get as old as they got me up to,” Oberto said laughing, referring to the speed of the hydroplane he just raced across Lake Washington.
After he was told the boat reached 130 mph, Oberto responds without hesitation: “Now I got something to go for.”
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Oberto is a hydroplane racing legend in Seattle. His sausage-and-jerky company — Oh Boy! Oberto — has sponsored a boat almost every year since 1975. Yet, until Friday, he had never even taken a boat for a test drive.
This season is the final year the company will sponsor a boat. To honor the legacy, Oberto took a couple of laps with the help of driver David Williams before H1 Unlimited qualifying began Friday. The hydroplane that Oberto took for a spin was the 1960 Miss Lumberville restored to look like the 1975 Oberto boat.
Art’s son, Larry Oberto, said he first approached his father with the idea in the fall, but was quickly turned down. He tried again during last week’s Gold Cup in the Tri-Cities and got a more receptive answer.
“I’ve seen him happy on his first win and I’ve seen him happy with a Gold Cup, and the look on his face walking down here is just, I mean beautiful,” Oberto said. “Like a little kid that went out and did devious things.”
Larry’s idea led to Art Oberto’s slow procession down the dock Friday with the help of his walker, as team officials, family members and other bystanders cheered. Oberto was lifted carefully into the seat before Williams squeezed in next to him and whisked him across the water for a couple of minutes.
After Oberto was helped back onto the dock, adorned with his straw hat sporting the Oh Boy! Oberto logo and he began shuffling back toward his canopy, the gathered crowd started chanting his name. At that point, Oberto stopped and pumped his fists to the beat
“He just likes putting on a show and watching other people enjoy themselves,” Larry Oberto said. “Now he’s the one having fun.”
The rest of the weekend should continue to be exciting for the Obertos. Their boat, the defending National High Points champion, is one of the favorites to win the Albert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup. The team has one of the best drivers in H1 Unlimited in Jimmy Shane, who is from nearby Covington.
But on a day when Shane was the second-fastest qualifier (148.880 mph), the day belonged to Art Oberto. And even Shane was on the edge of the dock, snapping pictures with his phone of Oberto as he sped away on the ride of his life.