CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 2024 edition of Charleston’s Sternwheel Regatta kicked off on Wednesday, and citizens flocked to Haddad Riverfront Park to enjoy live music for the first of five entertaining evenings.

Across the audience waved Jamaican flags both big and small to welcome the Caribbean-based Reggae star Shaggy. The 90’s/2000’s star made his way to West Virginia’s Capital City for the first time, bringing his flare, energy, and enthusiasm to the third year of the Regatta’s return.

Kevin Madison, the VIP Coordinator of the Sternwheel Regatta, says the return of the event means a lot for the entire city.

“I think everybody is happy to see Regatta come back,” Madison said before Shaggy took the stage. “For the first night, the crowds are amazing, people are happy, the vibe is great. It means a lot to the city, I mean, we’re supporting a lot of local jobs here downtown and in the city, hotels are booked. The economic impact is amazing.”

The Sternwheel Regatta originated in Charleston back in 1971 when 13-year-old Nelson Jones encouraged then-Mayor John Hutchinson to have a sternwheel race. and ran strong until it was discontinued in 2009. The Regatta was recently picked back up by the city in 2022, and according to Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, last year brought around 220,000 people from West Virginia and surrounding states to Charleston.

According to Madison, the preparation for this year’s Regatta started a long time ago.

“We started the day after Regatta ended last year,” Madison said. “All the different departments of the city, all these volunteers, the Regatta Commission, the board…everyone has just been awesome, and we made it happen for a comeback for year three.”

The Regatta, which serves as Charleston’s largest festival, has a historic track record for bringing in talent, with the event even welcoming the Beach Boys into town back in 1986. Kanawha County resident Louie Robinson, who has been coming to the Regatta since the early 80’s, says his favorite part of the event is the memories and spending time with those he’s close with.

“Just getting together with friends and stuff and thinking back about the memories, like the Beach Boys and all the other big bands coming in here over the years,” Robinson said during the concert.

Ashley Clark, who has only been coming since last year, says the Regatta coming back is special for her and her husband.

“It’s really cool,” Clark said. “My husband grew up here and he talked about it, so with this being the second one I’ve ever been to, it’s cool to see it come back because I didn’t get a chance to back then.”

Clark also added that the magnitude of the Sternwheel Regatta with its vendors and activities, has a big impact on the city.

“I just think, as many people that come out to support all the local vendors and the talent, we have a little bit of that with Live on the Levee on Fridays, but this is so much,” Clark said. “I just think it’s really good for the city.”

Continuing the music throughout the week will be the Emmy award-winning band Fab Four on Thursday, Eddie Montgomery, of Montgomery Gentry on Friday, and Vanilla Ice on Saturday.

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