WHEELING - The cool spray of water will accompany the roar of vintage hydroplanes speeding along the Ohio River, as the seventh annual Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta begins today.
The event, with WesBanco as its primary sponsor, benefits the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center of Wheeling.
"It just brings a multitude of things to the city, all of which are good. It also benefits a local charity, which makes it even better," said James Gardill, chairman of WesBanco, during the event's Friday kickoff dinner at WesBanco Arena. "It brings people into the town; it showcases the improvements the city is making in renewing our downtown; it shows the improvements the city has made to the waterfront area; and it provides entertainment for the community."
Photo by Casey Junkins
Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta Director Debbie Joseph thanks the event sponsors and drivers during the event’s Friday kickoff dinner.
The race co-directors, Debbie and Dan Joseph, said the event raised $7,000 for the Easter Seals center last year alone - and a total of about $27,000 since the race began.
During the kickoff dinner, the Josephs recognized the efforts of the many drivers who make their way to Wheeling to enjoy their rides on the river, as well as the sponsors and city officials who work to run the race each year.
"It is just wonderful to see how much this has grown," Debbie Joseph said.
Two of the boat racers who enjoy running at Wheeling are Dave Richardson and Roger LaPierre. They are impressed by the venue - as well as Wheeling's urban renewal efforts in demolishing the 1100 block of Main and Market streets.
"It is really great to see cities like this working to bring themselves back. If we can help add anything to it by being here, that makes it nice," LaPierre said.
Boats coming in from distances as far as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Baton Rouge, La., are now docked at Heritage Port. Spectators have the chance to get a good look at all the raceboats and meet with the drivers before watching them in action. Driving demonstrations of the boats - traveling anywhere from 60 to 120 mph - will run from 10 a.m. to noon, and again from 1:30-5 p.m., both today and Sunday.
The addition of free music during racing breaks will be an addition to the regatta this year. People can check out the concert with the band Stack of Monkeys playing at 7:30 p.m., followed by Hot Pursuit.
In between boat viewing, participants can enjoy a meal from one of the food vendors offering chicken and rib dinners, hot sausage sandwiches, steak tips or ice cream. They can also stroll along the port to view the many craft vendors. Those interested in the arts can stop by and watch Paul Latos of Linn Pottery in Wheeling demonstrate how to throw a pot.
There will also be toy and craft vendors and displays, including those provided by the Oglebay Institute's Schrader Center, the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum and Bellaire Toy and Plastic Brick Museum.
There will also be demonstrations from the Wheeling Police Department K-9 Unit, radio-controlled airplane shows by the Ohio Valley Hilltoppers.
An autograph session with raceboat drivers with free posters being given to the first 100 people is also set for today and Sunday during lunch.