Thursday, August 04, 2011

Royal St. John's Regatta

Growing up, one of my favourite days of the year was Regatta Day. The first Wednesday in August each year sees the Royal St. John's Regatta come to Quidi Vidi Lake (weather permitting). This is the oldest continuously running sporting event in North America. 2011 marked the 193rd running of this annual event.

The Regatta is a fixed-seat, 6 person rowing event. Teams train all summer in preparation for the big day, some with an eye to winning the Championship, while others compete more for the fun and exercise, or to beat their personal best. I participated one year, in 1997. I was never in better shape than I was that summer! Our team had no illusions of winning anything, but we had a great time and were very proud of all the effort we put in. I was also happy to be part of the tradition.
These races are a big part of St. John's history, and there are families who have been involved for generations. Local radio and TV provide in-depth coverage all race day. The weather this year was cool and overcast for the most part, with some sunny breaks, and increasing fog later in the afternoon. This is actually pretty good rowing weather. The Regatta Committee checks the weather forecast about 6am and makes a decision on whether or not to go ahead. High winds or extreme rain would mean a postponement to the Thursday. Rarely the event might be delayed to Friday. Regatta Day is a stat holiday in the city of St. John's. It may be the only weather-dependent stat holiday around. You actually don't know if you're going to work that day or not until the Regatta Committee makes that early morning decision on the weather!
While many people look forward to the excitement of the races, others come only for the attractions. Games of chance, kiddie midway rides, food vendors, and crowds of people. Great rowing weather is not always great attraction weather though! In spite of the iffy weather, the crowds were huge this year. My Mom and I brought Little Boo down to the pond for bouncy castles, cotton candy, pizza and hot dogs. He won some little prizes in fishponds, balloon darts, and plinko games. And we bumped into lots of old friends.

It meant a lot to me to share the Regatta with my little guy. It was such a big part of my growing up here, as well as of my adult years. Definitely a highlight of summer in St. John's!

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