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Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta Offers Fun for Whole Family

By Staff | Aug 30, 2017

Photo Provided A hydroplane raceboat capable of well over 100 mph makes a turn on the Ohio River.

They’re fast, they make a ton of noise and they’ve been thrilling Ohio Valley residents young and old at Wheeling’s Heritage Port every Labor Day weekend since 2006.

Hydroplane raceboats, including many of those seen at the New Martinsville vintage regatta earlier this summer, will return to Wheeling Sept. 2-3 for the 12th annual Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta, during which the dentists, the bankers and others you encounter during your everyday lives get in touch with their inner daredevil for the weekend.

Debbie Joseph, who co-founded the regatta with her husband, Dr. Dan Joseph, knows the attention spans of the youngest visitors can be a bit short, however, and that’s why organizers make sure every year there’s plenty for children to do at the event.

This year, Joseph said, the regatta is working to bring Science Tots, a Pittsburgh-based group, to the event to do experiments and other science, technology, engineering, arts and math-related activities with the children.

There also are plans to have inflatables on hand, as well as Danny Westfall of New Martinsville, known by many simply as “the bubble man.”

“The bubbles that he makes are big enough to envelop a child. They’re huge, and it’s really fun,” Joseph said.

Making the free event fun for all ages has long been a focus for the regatta, according to Joseph.

“We’re a family-friendly event. We don’t serve alcohol and we encourage families to come with grandparents and little kids,” she said. “We want everyone to be able to have a good time.”

The pits at the waterfront will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 1 as boat owners arrive at the event from locales such as Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and Canada with their vintage watercraft. Things officially get underway with 9:45 a.m. opening ceremonies on Sept. 2, followed by heats from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a break for lunch. The event follows the same schedule on Sunday, and musician Gregg Molnar of the local band Hit Play will perform during the mid-day break both days.

Joseph said 30-35 boats are registered for the event.

“We’ve got a good mix, and a couple of boats that haven’t been here before, so that’s exciting,” she said.

WesBanco returns as the regatta’s title sponsor this year, and as always proceeds benefit the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center on National Road in Wheeling. To date, the event has raised $62,450 for the organization.

The Niagara Dive Rescue Team from the Niagara Falls area will serve as rescue and safety personnel for the event for the first time this year, and the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide a shuttle service between Heritage Port and Oglebay Park during the event so visitors can take in the regatta as well as Fort Henry Days and other events at the park that weekend without having to worry about parking.

Joseph said she’s looking forward to another successful year for what has become one of Wheeling’s most anticipated annual events.

“Everybody pray for good weather, that we don’t get storms in the few days leading up to the regatta, because it’s horrible for us,” she said.