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New: Free shuttle between Downtown and Fish Creek
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A two-day spectacle celebrating the sport of rowing, featuring over 2,100 entrants, and representing over 200 organizations from all over the Eastern United States and Canada, is coming to town this weekend. The shores of Fish Creek will be lined with spectators for the 29th Annual Head of the Fish Regatta on Saturday and Sunday, October 31 and November 1. Given good weather, the races will be viewed by an estimated 10-12,000 people over those two days.
This is the largest of three major regattas hosted annually by the Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) and has grown steadily over the years in every category imaginable. This year, with five weekends in October, the Head of the Fish has been moved back one week, and now will not conflict with the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (another major regatta in the Philadelphia, PA area) as it has in previous years. While that may explain part of the increase in participation, SRA’s Regatta Director Chris Chase believes a general advance in the popularity of rowing is the key to the Head of the Fish’s growth.
“The highest concentration of junior (middle and high school) rowers is right here between Albany and Saratoga,” Chase noted, “at SRA, the number of participants is up to 205 from 175 last year, and this is something we are seeing with many other teams in the region.” The impact extends beyond the region, as evidenced by the fact that, year after year, regatta weekends generate the highest hotel/motel occupancy of any weekend outside of the “traditional” summer tourist season.
As one might expect, moving all these rowers, buses, cars and fans in and out of the area around the Lee’s Park boat launch area always presents unique challenges. Chase noted, “The actual racing is the easiest part of the whole regatta. We’re very glad that we are able to put this on for the kids and the participants each year, but with a regatta of this size, it’s always the logistics that take up most of our time and effort.” Indeed, Katherine Smith, President of SRA’s Board of Directors also has the key role of managing the volunteer staff, whose ranks also grow each year. “This year, we’ll have the assistance of about 210 volunteers, not including the EMS and Sheriff’s department, which always does a great job on our behalf. We estimate that over 1,800 volunteer hours will be logged during the weekend.”
In an effort to both alleviate traffic pressure around Fish Creek and enhance the overall fan experience, SRA has combined with the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau (SCTB) to offer continuous shuttle buses on both days between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Two free shuttle buses, underwritten by SCTB, will make stops at Saratoga Lake and Downtown Saratoga Springs. The two stops will be in front of the state boat launch next to the site of SRA’s future headquarters, and at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center on Broadway.
Announcing the new shuttle, Todd Garofano, President of SCTB said, “It really is a win-win. Parents and fans here to watch their athletes compete often have long periods of time in between races and search for things to do. They can take advantage of the shuttle now to come downtown to shop, dine or stroll. And for those folks here visiting that are interested in watching an amazing free event, they can take the shuttle to the regatta site and not worry about finding a place to park.”
Smith echoed those thoughts, “The shuttle service will provide an efficient way for visitors to experience a little more of Saratoga and I also really hope local families will use the shuttle as an opportunity to come see what a regatta is all about. First timers are always amazed at the size, the excitement and the camaraderie at Saratoga Regattas and this fascinating sport!”
Also, SRA will be drawing the winning ticket for its raffle of a 2015 Audi A3 convertible, or $30,000 in cash, at the regatta on Sunday at 1 p.m. The proceeds from this raffle will be used to support SRA’s Capital Campaign, which includes the construction of a new Regatta Headquarters and Training Facility, which is now underway and scheduled to be completed next spring (see Saratoga TODAY - September 25, 2015). Raffle tickets may be purchased at SRA’s Headquarters, or during regatta weekend up until the drawing on Sunday.
At press time, the weather forecast is calling for moderate winds, highs in the 50s and next to no chance for rain. In other words -ideal viewing conditions should be in effect. Saturday’s schedule will begin at 8 a.m. and the day’s racing will showcase the Masters (adult), Collegiate, and Open Divisions, as well as some Junior single’s events. Sunday’s races begin at 7:30 a.m. (Note: This takes into account Daylight Savings Time – set your clocks back!), and are dedicated to Juniors in different divisions, in boats with varying numbers of rowers from two to eight.
Whenever you decide to go, by all means make it a point to put this one on your calendar. The Head of the Fish Regatta is always a highlight of the fall, and yet another example of a world-class event that occurs in our region.
For more information, visit SaratogaRowing.com