Raceboat Regatta Has International Flavor

If you’ve ever wondered what the Australian national anthem sounds like, you’ll want to take time this Labor Day weekend to visit the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta, an event that figures to have somewhat more of an international flavor than in years past.

Vintage hydroplane owners have been crossing the border from Canada to take part in the regatta for several years, but when the powerful boats churn up the Ohio River at Heritage Port for the ninth straight year Aug. 29-31, Graham and Kerri Coddington of Queensland, Australia, will become the event’s first-ever participants from a different continent.

Having three different nations represented in Wheeling is something regatta organizer Debbie Joseph could hardly have envisioned when she and her husband Dan founded the event in 2006.

“It’s pretty amazing,” she said, adding the Coddingtons had planned to be at last year’s regatta but had to back out due to a death in the family.

Joseph said spectators will hear the American, Canadian and Australian national anthems during the opening ceremonies Aug. 30-31, all sung by incoming Wheeling Park High School freshman David Gaudio.

Many of the event’s features will be familiar to spectators, including the Sea Quest Kids program, which allows children to build their very own wooden boats and take them out on the river, as well as the Ohio Valley Hillhoppers’ remote-controlled airplane shows during breaks in the action. But Joseph said the regatta is also introducing a new feature this year, the WesBanco Family Fun Tent, which will be located toward the south end of Heritage Port.

“In that tent will be face painting, popcorn, balloons, a caricature artist – lots of fun things for families,” Joseph said.

Area band The Muddle will perform during lunch breaks, while Saturday evening will feature entertainment by Two Bridges and Hit Play, beginning around 7:30 p.m.

Food and craft vendors will be on hand throughout the event, and there will be a classic and custom car show with cash prizes on Sunday.

All regatta events are free of charge to attend, Joseph said, and as always, spectators are welcome to visit the pits on Friday, Aug. 29, to visit with drivers an learn more about the boats as they arrive at Heritage Port.

Each year since its inception, the regatta has donated proceeds to the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center on National Road. Joseph said last year’s event raised $7,800 for the facility, which provides therapy for local children with disabilities.

“That puts us well over $40,000 that we’ve donated in eight years, so we’re pretty proud of that,” she said.

Once again, WesBanco returns as the regatta’s naming sponsor. Other major contributors include Savage Construction, Merco Marine, the Health Plan, Wheeling Volkswagen-Subaru and Family Medical Supply.

Joseph also thanked Northern Panhandle members of the state Legislature for ensuring the regatta’s inclusion in the state’s travel and tourism budget.