Just seven months ago, Astoria’s Regatta Festival was being read its last rites.
After last year’s committee stepped down, the annual celebration was briefly canceled until a new contingent – led by Fulio’s Pastaria owner and 2013 Regatta President Peter Roscoe – stepped up and took the reins.
All the off-season tumult was long forgotten this weekend, as festivalgoers from across the country convened in Astoria to celebrate the 119th Regatta Festival. This year’s theme was “A River Runs to It.”
“We figured it would be a nice cultural experience,” said Alice DeKok, of Mesquite, Nev., at Saturday’s Lum’s Auto Center /Well’s Fargo Grand Land Parade. DeKok and her husband, Steve, have been traveling the coast and made a point to return to Astoria, which they last visited about 30 years ago.
“The same wonderful buildings are here,” Alice DeKok said, as she stood at the corner of 15th and Duane streets. “It’s kind of like walking back in time.”
From Wednesday’s Kiwanis Junior Parade to Sunday’s sailboat races, the Regatta brought hundreds of people to the community to commemorate Astoria’s storied maritime history.
“This is a terrific weekend in Astoria,” said state Sen. Betsy Johnson at Friday morning’s Seamen’s Memorial, which honored those who have lost their lives at sea.
Roscoe presided over the memorial and awarded bells to Regatta Admiral Helena Barbey Lankton and Admiral’s Aide Paulette Hankel McCoy. Roscoe also instituted a new tradition at this year’s memorial, ringing a bell for each year that Astoria has been an official U.S. Coast Guard city.
“The Coast Guard is very proud to be part of the ceremony,” said Coast Guard Sector Commander Bruce Jones. “Today we honor those who answer the call, those who gave their all.”
Kesley, 18, and Austin White, 20, attended Friday’s ceremony with their parents, Greg and Jenn. The family recently moved to Astoria from Austin, Texas. This was their first Regatta Festival.
“This was awesome,” Kesley White said of the Seamen’s Memorial. “The horns and the salute got me teary-eyed.”
The White family had been looking forward to the weekend-long celebration, even doing a bit of “research” beforehand.
“We’ve been excited for the Regatta,” Greg White said. “We actually watched ‘Summer Rental,’” referring to the 1985 Carl Reiner comedy that features John Candy competing in a Florida regatta.
The centerpiece of this year’s Regatta Festival was the Grand Land Parade, which snaked through downtown Astoria on Duane and Exchange streets.
The parade drew throngs of people who lined the street, including Karen Kayekjian, a native Astorian who brought her family from Anaheim, Calif.
“We always like to go to the parade when we can,” Kayekjian said. Astoria in the summer has “a really nice atmosphere,” she said.
Karen’s son Benjamin, 12, was one of the many children seen scampering into the street to snatch candy thrown from passing floats.
Is there any candy that Benjamin just won’t pick up?
“Tootsies,” he said, scanning his plastic bag as he answered.
“But I got a lot of them,” he said with a shrug. Free candy is free candy.
This wasn’t Benjamin Kayekjian’s first parade. After filling his plastic bag with treats on Exchange Street, the savvy candy grabber was later seen on Duane, catching the parade the second time around.
He, like many this weekend, couldn’t get enough Regatta.
The Daily Astorian, 8.12.13. Link: http://goo.gl/D92TT6