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Boats on the Kanawha River line up along the levee on Sept. 13, 1998, during the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta.

Charleston’s Sternwheel Regatta will return next summer, Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin confirmed Thursday.

Goodwin is set to officially announce the festival’s return Friday during the final installment of the city’s free summer concert series, Live on the Levee. Dates for the Regatta’s return have not been set, but Goodwin indicated that it will not be a weeklong event, as it previously was.

“We’ve looked through all the books and we’ve looked at all of the past records, all of the past finances,” she said. “There is a sweet spot in the number of days that you have an event like this, and it’s about three. It’s like a nice long weekend.

“It’s going to be a new Regatta. It’s not going to be the Regatta of yesteryear. It can’t be, and it shouldn’t be. It should be a new type of event.”

The first Sternwheel Regatta was held in 1971, and the event was staged annually until its end in 2009. In its heyday, the festival ran for 10 days and featured concerts from national acts, the Charleston Distance Run, fireworks, carnival rides and food vendors.

Goodwin said she’s been hearing from people who want the Regatta to return since she took office in 2019.

“Day one in office, I got my first call about the Regatta. Day one,” Goodwin said. “I did not even get to sit down in my chair and the phone rang, ‘Bring it back.’ Hand to the heavens. And it’s been constant.”

Recreating every aspect of the Regatta people remember so fondly is a difficult task, Goodwin said. Many who want to see the Regatta come back talk about the energy the festival brought to the levee, she said.

“I do think that we don’t utilize our river as much as we should,” Goodwin said. “And there is an uptick in the number of folks who are investing in sternwheelers, investing in watercraft and want to see the Regatta come back. I think those people are going to be really happy [Friday].”

With the Regatta’s return on the horizon, Goodwin said the city has no plans to end the Live on the Levee series or FestivALL, the city’s arts and music festival.

Goodwin hinted about bringing back the Regatta at a news conference earlier this year, announcing the return of the Great Rubber Duck Race, which had been a part of the Regatta.

With the festival’s future more certain, Goodwin said the next step is setting up committees to plan it.

“Make no mistake about it, it’s a monumental undertaking to have an event like this,” Goodwin said.

Lori Kersey covers the city and county. She can be reached at 304-348-1240 or Follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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