ASTORIA, Ore. - The Astoria Regatta is in big company now - joining the Oregon State Fair, Pendleton Roundup and Linn County Pioneer Picnic as an Oregon Heritage Tradition.
"The Heritage Commission wants to recognize these traditions that have helped define the state," said Commission chair David Lewis. "They are distinguished events that are part of our heritage as Oregonians. This is certainly true of the Astoria Regatta."
An Oregon Heritage Tradition must have been in continuous operation for more than 50 years, it has to demonstrate a public profile and reputation that distinguishes it from more routine events and it has to add to the livability and identity of the state.
The Astoria Regatta traces its beginnings back to 1894 when some residents decided they wanted a way for the community to celebrate the return of Astoria fishermen from Alaska aboard boats filled with salted fish. Rapidly the annual celebration of the community blossomed into one of the premier boat contests on the West Coast.
2013 Astoria Regatta
Actor Michael Ironside is this year's grand marshal. Photo courtesy of IMDb.
The Astoria of 1894 was a cultural hodgepodge comprised of Native Americans, Scandinavian, Chinese and the usual polyglot of American/Europeans.
Early pictures of the Regatta show elaborate festivities amid the thriving downtown that was built over the river on wooden planks.
While Astoria skipped the event during the two world wars and after a 1922 fire that destroyed much of the city, the Astoria Regatta planners today make a year-long effort to create the event.
More than 60 volunteers spend approximately 10 hours a week year-round planning and promoting the regatta.
The event brings together 8,000 to 10,000 people, including people who bring their boats and drop anchors along the riverfront during the entire length of the celebration.
More than 50 events take place during the Astoria Regatta.