Regatta set for this weekend
Sound the silver trumpet. Harbour Grace is set to host its 149th annual regatta on Saturday, July 30at Lady Lake.
Spectators can expect to see some daring feats of strength and endurance as children, families and athletes row their way to glory at what is the second oldest sporting event in North America.
While attendance had been steadily dwindling since the mid-90s, in recent years the regatta has seen something of a renaissance. In 2010, over a dozen new crews competed. This year, the regatta committee has added three more races for a total of 22 races and 28 crews.
According to Joanne Taylor, a volunteer with the committee, the upswing in participation started three years ago, when organizers decided to allow younger children to participate.
“Before then, you had to be 12 or 13 to compete,” Taylor said. “ This year, our youngest participant is seven. The bulk of the crews are made up of younger kids.”
The young athletes have helped increase attendance, too, as proud parents and grandparents come to cheer them on.
“Some of our crews have travelled on to the regattas in St. John’s and Portugal Cove,” Taylor noted.
She hopes that rowing will not be a passing fad for these youngsters, and that they continue to compete in the regatta into their teens and beyond.
Part of the appeal of rowing is the low cost of participation, she explained.
The regatta committee owns all the boats, and there is no fee to get involved in the regatta. “It doesn’t cost a cent,” Taylor said. While this weekend’s event promises a number of activities for locals and visitors, Taylor said the volunteers are already looking to promote next year’s 150th anniversary.
There’s talk of spreading next year’s regatta over two weekends, and including a competitive and “ fun” event with whaling boats and perhaps a folk festival.
One thing about the 2012 event is certain.
“It’s going to be bigger,” Taylor said.