By KRISTEN AGUIRRE, KHQA NEWS – Quincy IL.
Rowers and paddlers made their way onto the Mississippi River, Saturday afternoon to revive a Quincy tradition.
The Quincy 5 Miler is the first regatta to be held in the Gem City in 63 years.
Believe it or not, Quincy used to be known for its water sports.
“Quincy used to be a regional, if not national power house for rowing,” Kevin Dempsey, safety director for the Quincy 5 Miler, said. “They actually use to put the boats on the railway and went all over the country and raced and did very, very well.”
Quincy’s first boat race took place 140 years ago, in 1872, in the Quincy Bay. Decades later, motor boats came onto the scene and the idea of using a paddle became old news. Eventually, the race died out, that is, until now.
“We would love to bring kayaking and rowing back to Quincy Bay in a very big, possibly competitive way,” Dempsey said.
The Quincy 5 Miler was the perfect way to start that. More than 70 human-powered boats participated in the race. Gary Kingham trained for weeks before the event. He traveled from Ogden, Iowa and took home first place.
“It was everything I’d hope for,” Kingham said. “Perfect weather, the organization was really good. I”ll come back again.”
“It’s good to have it back on the bay,” Laura Sievert, who took first place in the women’s category, said. “Instead of going out on those motorboats, it’s great to see so many people out on these hand-powered crafts, everything from the kayaks, to the row boats, to the canoes. It’s a terrific way to see the river and to really appreciate what’s right here in our backyard.”
The regatta started from the south end of Hogback Island, then continued down the Illinois side of the Mississippi, through “The Cut” to Quincy Bay, and ended at the South Side Boat Club. It was the same course used in the 1872 race and organizers are hopeful it’ll be the same one they use next year.
“Based on the conversations I’ve had today, you can count on this being a tradition,” Dempsey said. “We’re looking to bringing self-propelled boats back.”