The oldest organized sporting event in North America celebrates a milestone, as the Royal St. John’s Regatta turns 200 on August 1st (weather pending)
The oldest organized sporting event in North America continues to thrive heading towards its bicentennial. Celebrating that amazing 200th anniversary in 2018, the Royal St. John’s Regatta has grown leaps and bounds from the first recorded event in 1816.
It is a provincial – if not national – event worthy of recognition, routinely acknowledged as The Largest Garden Party in the World, and one where socialization and comradery mean as much as athletics or finishing times.
A Massive Milestone
“It’s been busy,” says Regatta Committee President Chris Neary, who has 25 years combined experience in the Regatta, both as an athlete and volunteer. “The vibe has been different – not just with the committee but with the rowers. It’s easily seen when we have over a 50 per cent increase competing compared to last year. It’s just a good vibe down there right now and people are recognizing it and appreciating the Regatta for what it is.”
It takes a village to pull off this monumental sporting event on any given year, but a herculean one with all hands on deck for such a massive milestone.
“I’ll sometimes tell the volunteers that I know they’re busy and working hard, but this only happens once every 200 years,” Neary laughs. “We’re lucky enough to be here for that, so lets get it done, especially on the home stretch here now. We’re all getting tired, and getting pulled away from our families and work commitments, but come three weeks from now we can all look back and be proud of what we’ve done and the rowers can be excited and proud of the fact that they’ve competed in the 200th anniversary.”
For the 200th, the committee has organized an event worthy of such a grandiose title. Bigger, more fan and family friendly, and brimming with as much excitement and energy as possible.
Regatta day has truly expanded into Regatta week, with events like the Rower’s Reunion, viewing of Royal St. John’s Regatta Museum and the explosive Regatta Eve, featuring live music and pyro.
“Everyone is excited for this,” says Neary. “There are people coming home especially for this because they’ve either competed in the regatta or seen it and the Regatta holds a special place in their hearts. If they’re going to come home for the summer, why not wait for the 200th anniversary. It’s something that, as we begin to publicize it more, people around the country are starting to perk up and realize what we’re doing here. Not that they hadn’t known before, but they’re starting to understand the uniqueness of the event, the history and the longevity. It’s pretty cool to see.”
And while all the pomp and circumstance of a marquee event globally may draw in the layperson, it takes a true driving quality to endure for 200 years. The sport of rowing is one that commands teamwork, determination and trust, and it is with those intangibles that the Regatta has flourished for 200 years and counting.
“I think what drives people in is it’s such a large prominent event in the city, over and above just being a sporting event. That sort of draws people into it,” says Neary. “They’ve always come down as kids or adults and say I’ve always wanted to do it. I think it gets to the point where they say why not? We’re certainly seeing that this year for the 200th, people saying if I’m going to do it this year would be the year to give it a try. I think that is drawing people in.
“But I do think it’s a very personal thing when you do start rowing. A lot of people say it becomes addictive. I think, once you’re there, I think it’s not the event itself, but the teamwork and the team comradery that really keeps you there. It becomes very personal, and you’re having fun with those people and the satisfaction of, win lose or draw, you were able to participate in the Regatta with five or six other people that you learn to respect, appreciate and have fun with. The history and the event itself bring people in, but in the end it’s the team aspect and the personal relationships that you build that keep you.”
For a full list of events of the Royal St. John’s Regatta visit stjohnsregatta.com. Be a part of history on August 1st!