Exclusive: Premier Schuylkill River regattas to return in May

A story you heard first on KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s premier rowing regattas will return to the Schuylkill River in May. They are the first special events to be permitted since the onset of COVID-19 more than a year ago.

Philadelphia's Department of Parks and Recreation has given permission for the Dad Vail and Stotesbury regattas to return. Their applications gained approval just two weeks after the city reopened the permitting process.

The events will be open to athletes only — not the usual mass of parents, spectators and vendors that throng the river banks. Bonnie Mueller of the Schuylkill Navy, which runs the Stotesbury race for high schoolers, said this is a major development for rowing nationally.

"It shows the endurance of these athletes, the endurance of the city, but at the same time is a reminder that we need to do things cautiously to ensure that we come through the pandemic together," she said.

The Schuylkill Navy is working with Visit Philly and other tourism agencies to help visiting parents enjoy the city’s amenities while they spend days at the river.

“Ultimately, these events are about student-athletes and their opportunity to compete,” added Erika McCormick, Stotesbury racing director. “While we acknowledge the disappointing change it will be for fans to stay away, the athletes and their coaches have been making adjustments and adapting to big changes on a regular basis for over a year, all in preparation for this moment.”

Mueller emphasized the events are about the athletes, so organizers willingly agreed to the restriction. While that means the economic impact for the city will be much lower, she believes the impact on morale will be huge.

"I think the fact that Philadelphians will be able to look to the river and see these iconic events happening again is a great sign of hope and the future," Mueller said.

Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing also got permission for three high school races in April and the City Championship on May 1 and 2.

The Dad Vail, the largest collegiate regatta in the country, is scheduled for May 7 and 8. Stotesbury, the largest high school regatta in the world, is scheduled for May 14 and 15.

As for other special events in the city, the Philadelphia Horticultural Society also gained approval to hold the Philadelphia Flower Show outdoors in June.

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