CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The third year return of the recently-revived Charleston Sternwheel Regatta is now just one day away and the excitement is building throughout the city.

The five-day event kicks off Wednesday at noon with the carnival at Haddad Riverfront Park.

Music will officially get underway starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday with the MFB Band at City Center Slack Plaza before moving down to the main stage at Haddad Riverfront Park at 6:30 p.m. for The Tom Bachelor Band followed up by the famous 90s/ 2000s-era reggae artist, Shaggy at 8 p.m.

On the Fourth of July this Thursday will be the group Shine followed by The Fab Four, which Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said on 580 Live with Dave Allen earlier in the week, it’s a Beatles’ tribute band like no other.

“On Thursday we’ve got not only fireworks but we’ve got the premier Beatle band, three costume changes, these guys are it,” said Goodwin.

On Friday, July 5 is Emily Ann Roberts and country group Montgomery Gentry featuring Eddie Montgomery.

Finally, the group The Unit kicks off the last day of music on Saturday, July 6. Subsequently, a series of favorite 90s hip-hop artists will take the stage, including Vanilla Ice, Treach of Naughty By Nature, Tone Loc and Young MC for the I Love the 90s Tour.

Throughout each day leading up to the music will be a multitude of new and old favorite events, some of which have been going on since the original Regatta started in the 1970s, with events like the Funeral Parade and boat races on the Kanawha River.

There have also been new events that had formed and found popularity over the course of the two years since the Regatta came back. One of those new events formed when the Regatta started expanding down to Slack Plaza, a wrestling event known as the Sternwheel Slamboree.

Goodwin said that new event in particular has gone over big and works well with the Regatta overall.

“This is a new thing we started last year with Adam Harris and Matthew Sutton and Tim Brady, and so many other wonderful folks, it’s such a neat addition to what we’ve done with our Regatta,” she said.

Some other favorites returning again this year include the Weiner Dog Races, The Great Rubber Duck Race, and the Fire Parade.

On Tuesday before the Regatta, the committee and volunteers were all down at Haddad along the Kanawha Boulevard– where the main hub of activity takes place– and they were making the final finishing touches to the preparation process.

Among the set up, the procession of food trucks were rolling in as well as set up with sound, lighting and other features being done to the stage.

Regatta main stage along Kanawha Boulevard

Assistant to the Mayor, Jane Bostic said the process was going very well.

“It’s going smooth and it’s going easy because we have a great team of workers from the city, we have a great team of volunteers, so it’s going real smooth this morning,” Bostic said.

She said only a few minor changes have had to be made, such as the stage being slightly smaller this year and a few activities moving to different locations, such as the Family Fun Zone that used to be at Magic Island and will now be located at Slack Plaza.

Bostic said the past two years gave them a road map to follow showing what has been proven to work.

“You know, it’s what the mayor always says — year three,” she said. “The first year you’re getting your feet wet and trying to figure it all out and the second year you make the improvements, you know, fix the things that might have been a snafu on the first year, third year you gotta get it right or go home.”

Bostic said while setting up for five days of activity encompassing the festival is extensive, seeing the pay off makes it all worth it.

“It’s hard work and it’s hot work but it’s also fun work because a lot of great people make this happen,” said Bostic.

She said everything would be ready to go by Wednesday morning.

Goodwin said that bringing the Regatta back was one of the main staples under her administration.

She said back when she was campaigning, knocking on the doors of over 11,000 residents across the city, she heard one consistent theme– bring the Regatta back.

“We didn’t just bring it back because Amy thought it was a great idea, yes I missed it and I thought it was a great idea, but everybody else wanted me to, and so what we said was, year one, and I know I said it on this show, we’re going to bring it back and we’re going to see, we’re going to see how it goes, I’m a big believer in the year three, this is year three,” said Goodwin.

And she said the number of people and economic impact the event has drawn into the city in the last two years is a reflection of why bringing it back was a good idea. In 2022, the event brought in an estimated 210,000 people and a return on investment of $31 million– last year it pulled in over 220,000 people and a total of $37.2 million.

You can see this year’s full Regatta schedule here.

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