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Charleston Sternwheel Regatta turnout ‘beyond our wildest expectations,’ event official says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As vendors and organizers of the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta continue to tear down from the five-day festival that ended Monday, leaders of the event are calling its return a ‘wild success.’

The Regatta was held from Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4 along the riverfront at Haddad Riverfront Park and Kanawha Boulevard. It was last held in Charleston in 2009.

Bryan Hughes, the ‘Captain’ of Charleston Sternwheel Regatta told MetroNews that the pent-up demand showed with the crowds into the thousands on the first night and the momentum never stopped.

Bryan Hughes

“Thursday surprised us at how many came out, attended, what our sales were for the craft beer festival, that blew our mind. Each day it got bigger and bigger. It just was beyond our wildest expectations,” Hughes said.

The patrons on Thursday were able to see Everclear perform on the stage set up on the boulevard. Other musical performances through the weekend included the Spinners, the Four Tops, Martina McBride, Rick Springfield and a July 4 performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

There were also activities for children such as a carnival and Kids Zone at Magic Island. Food trucks, beer tents, souvenir stores and more vendors lined Kanawha Boulevard down to Capitol Street down to Clendenin Street. Even side streets hosted vendors including events at Slack Plaza on Summers Street.

Hughes noted some of the food vendors were either running low on supplies or out of supplies by the time Monday rolled around.

“From the end of the carnival at Clendenin down to Capitol Street, the Kanawha Boulevard was full. Capitol Street itself was full every night with people,” Hughes said.

The carnival was put on by Gambill Amusements out of Buckhannon, West Virginia and featured everything from a carousel, slides, ferris wheel, and classic carnival games. Hughes said Gambill officials were impressed by the turnout.

“They (Gambill) travel all over the East Coast and said ‘we’ve never been to a first-year festival, essentially, that was this successful,'” Hughes said.

Hughes said the majority of vendors and all of the festival officials are working hard to finalize plans for a 2023 event.

When the event was at its peak in the 1990s, it was traditionally held on Labor Day weekend. Hughes said there are discussions for all possibilities but there was positive feedback about the July 4 weekend.

“As we look to next year, we are considering the July 4th weekend as a possibility and maybe something close to Labor Day,” Hughes said.

Hughes expects hard financial numbers and attendance figures to be released in the coming weeks. For now, he said officials are busy dispersing tips to volunteers and cleaning up.

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