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Home Town Tourist: Up the Pond

Crowds at the Boathouse

Crowds gather at the Boathouse to watch the oldest annual sporting event in North America.

Hometown Tourist is a series about playing tourist in my home town of St. John’s. If you have a story you’d like to share about your own home town, please get in touch.

I love the Regatta; it is a piece of old St. John’s standing up against the tide, an event free of any importance whatsoever – just fun.
Bob Hallett via Twitter 

A Day at the Royal St. John’s Regatta

It’s been years since I’ve been to the Regatta. Instead I usually spend my holiday Wednesday at home. Wednesday you say? Who has a holiday on a Wednesday? Well, we do…but sometimes it’s Thursday. The odd time it’s on Friday. I think the Royal St. John’s Regatta has to be one of the few, if not the only, weather dependent holiday on the planet. If the day is nice and the pond is calm, you get the day off, otherwise it’s off to work and try again tomorrow. This has led to the ever popular game of Regatta Roulette. Do you dare go out drinking on Tuesday night and spin the chamber?


Wake up and learn that those playing Regatta Roulette were lucky this time. The races are on! Roll over and go back to sleep.

Crowds at the Regatta

Pondside was blocked. If you like people watching, you’ll be in your glee at the Regatta.


I know that parking will be non-existent so I prepare to walk the 3.5km to Quidi Vidi Lake. Not far from home I see a family waiting at a bus stop. Why didn’t I think of that? Looks like the bus is only $1 today and goes right to the pond. Shag walking. I’ll do enough of that today anyway.

Get to Quidi Vidi and am immediately swallowed up in the crowd. Despite the huge crowds and general din from generators and chatter, most of the ducks on the pond are sleeping. I wonder what they must think of the madness? My timing is stellar and I arrive just as the races take a break for lunch. Guess I’ll seek out some food.


I see some concession lines so long that I wonder if the people at the end even know what they’re queuing up for? I’m tempted to join them just to see what the fuss is about but instead I head to a red wagon to line up for toutons. Mmm…fried bread dough and molasses. Lunch of champions.

There are families with small children everywhere. I would suggest wearing closed toe shoes for your own day at the Regatta because there’s a good chance you’ll have your toes run over by at least one stroller. If you go the sandals route and you mess up your new pedicure, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A crew takes off.

With the blast of the starting gun, a crew takes off.


The races start up again. It’s almost comical how little the crowd cares. For today’s champions the only real prize is bragging rights. Most rowers are taking part just to be part of the tradition. A few small pockets of supporters will cheer when their team crosses the finish line but most people are here for the food and fun.

I wander from the boathouse to the other end of the pond and wonder if it’s a statement on Newfoundland parenting that the kid’s amusements are right smack next to the beer garden? Convenient. A band is playing typical pub songs and there’s a real party atmosphere here.

Crown and Anchor at the Regatta

Big money, no whammies.


I can’t leave without putting down a few dollars on the crown and anchor wheel. I place my dollar on the crown in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and won three. I like this game! I end up losing it again plus some, but it’s for a good cause. I can’t bring myself to throw away my money on any of the prize games though because, really, a woman my age doesn’t need a stuffed snake or a blow up mallet with Princess emblazoned on it. Though in hindsight, it would match the pink paper Princess crown I got on my 30th birthday.

A few of the gaming booths are selling tickets for various draws. Weirdest prize of the day: a $500 tattoo. No word on whether it has to be of a rowing shell.


Lining up for food again, this time for a yummy moose burger – a festival must for me. This is one of the few non-hot dog-based protein options being sold today. The Indian booths are selling non-stop. For a province raised on salt cod we sure love our curry. Tip for future Regatta revellers: bring wet wipes. Despite wiping with napkins, molasses, ketchup and ice cream have left a sticky residue on my hands.


The races are done save for the championships which will go this evening. Time for me to get out of dodge. My feet are tired, my hands are sticky and I can feel a sunburn on the back of my neck but I’ve fully enjoyed my day at the races. Maybe next year I’ll go after that Princess mallet after all.

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