NOTE: Due to COVID-19 the 2020 Royal St. John’s Regatta has been cancelled.
If you’re visiting St. John’s, Newfoundland during August, you may want to take in the oldest annual sporting event in North America: The Royal St. John’s Regatta.
Referred to by locals as simply “The Regatta”, the event celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018. It is a series of boat races which take place on Quidi Vidi Lake and enjoyed by as many as 50,000 people each year.
Though the boat races are at the heart of the Regatta, many people attend to enjoy entertainment, games, concessions, and other various lakeside booths such as food and beer.
Weather-Dependent Holiday and Regatta Roulette
The Royal St. John’s Regatta is scheduled on the first Wednesday in August each year. If weather and wind conditions are not favorable, the event is postponed until the next suitable day. Because the Regatta is a civic holiday in the city of St. John’s, the weather actually determines whether or not workers get a day off!
This becomes very interesting when late-night partying is brought into the mix. Traditionally, the George Street Festival schedule aligns so that its last night falls the night before the Regatta. Many people like to enjoy the festival with the assumption they will not have to work the following day. However, should they stay up late and then the Regatta be postponed, they must force themselves out of bed and continue onto work. This process is known to locals as “Regatta Roulette”.
Regatta Day Sales and Areas Outside St. John’s
Being a municipal holiday, the Regatta Day holiday does not apply to any other nearby cities or towns such as Mount Pearl, Paradise, or Torbay.
Businesses in those towns all operate as normal, meaning that a resident who lives in St. John’s but works outside of the city would still have work on Regatta Day. Conversely, someone who works in but does not live in St. John’s may have the day off.
It is also quite common for retailers located outside of St. John’s to have large sales, similar to Boxing Day and Black Friday. This trend was popularized by a local building supply store from years ago known as Chester Dawe.
Night Before Regatta
In recent years there have been growing crowds of people who drop down to Quidi Vidi Lake the night before Regatta Day.
Once upon a time you might find a few people and a french-fry truck, but the surge in popularity has led to many more vendors being open for the evening, and even a live band playing on stage.