“Not just another regatta” is the saying allegedly prompting thousands of spectators to flock to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area in the second full weekend of May for the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta! 

Unique to the pageantry and traditions of this event is the breadth of celebration. There is something to attract every one of every age!

Competition is fierce from single rowing boats to powerful eight oared shells moving rapidly down still waters amidst the deafening roar of their loyal school alumni!

Recognition is ubiquitous beginning at the awards dock, when at the end of each race heavily breathing, perspiring and overly excited rowers claim their first, second, and third place gold, silver, and bronze medals respectively, so highly prized they are frequently found still hanging around their necks weeks after the end of the Regatta!

To stage an event of this magnitude, which generally involves approximately 75 schools and over 2,000 athletes the all-volunteer organizers must take on any task at hand. When the sixty-foot trailers loaded with shining racing shells begin to arrive along with crews, coaches, and spectators everything must run smoothly.

A finely orchestrated cadre of 200 well -seasoned volunteers, ranging in age 10 to 92, from around the country make this event a success and proudly consider this to be the highlight of their year, some wearing the treasured Dad Vail Gold Jacket, emblematic of and awarded only after ten continuous dedicated years of service to the Dad Vail. 

An enormous circus tent serves as cover for the traditional Friday night awards banquet staged after the first day of racing is over.  The ambiance is akin to the Master’s Golf awards ceremony, the Kentucky Derby wreath bestowing, the Wimbledon winners’ stage, and the Royal Henley Regatta awards ceremony all combined!

Silver engraved plates are awarded to commemorate 25- and 50-year returning anniversary crews who steadfastly arrive to celebrate their championships from years earlier.  One grandfather even announced to the audience, “that winning a Dad Vail Gold Medal was the most memorable event of his lifetime!”

With the only constant being change, Dad Vail regularly pivots and to create rowing events to promote inclusivity. the latest being introduction of para rowing. Just recently, Taylor Roberts became the very first para rower to cross the finish line in the very first para-rowing exhibition race!

For the very first time this year, all para rowing will be in “OPEN” events.  Winners of the Men’s & Women’s PR 1 Single Scull events automatically qualify to attend the USRowing Para Development Camp in July and will be awarded a $2000 scholarship to offset the cost of the camp and racing at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta!  This opportunity is by virtue of support from the Gold Challenge Cup Foundation and USRowing.

In a bit of contrast, the 22nd Annual Dad Vail Art Poster contest challenges high school students who compete for scholarship checks presented to winners whose compositions best depict a Dad Vail Regatta scene.

As for the Regatta, spectators report, no one else provides for an alumni village which reverberates with camaraderie, a beer garden for quenching ones thirst while watching athletes “heave ho” as they row down the racecourse and a Regatta festival area with rowing apparel vendors, food trucks and bands that play live music throughout the event.

The 85th Annual Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Coca-Cola will be staged on the Cooper River, in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11 and it is free!

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