Regattas by  Carolynn Bart-Riedstra

Stratford-Perth Archives

The Avon River has long been a source of recreational and esthetic enjoyment for visitors and residents of Stratford. Already in the 1840s mention was made of a boat club which consisted of several water enthusiasts who enjoyed traveling on the Ottawa River.  The club disbanded when interest waned and the members were too old to maneuver the boat.

Boat regattas were another popular event held in the early 1900s. The first regatta was sponsored by the Fraternal Association and expanded from 1909 athletic day which did not include water activities.  This classic picture shows a boat regatta in progress.

 A regatta featured aquatic contests such as swimming races, boat races and greased pole contests and a duck hunt. These competitions followed by an illuminated parade of decorated boats usually canoes or rowboats, lit by Chinese lanterns. There were at least 8 regattas between 1910 and 1927.

The regattas were an excellent opportunity to show the work of the newly formed park. At the time the parks board was criticized for spending too much money for park improvements in connection with the lake.

Prizes were given for races, swimming, canoeing, best dancers and best decorated boats. In the evening the parade of decorated boats was held. The illuminated boat parade was the main feature of the day and the route took on the lake beginning at the park the boats were rowed down the river to the dam and then back again to the park where dancing was freely indulged late into the night.

By 1920 the interest in boat regattas was dwindling and in 1932 when the Old Boy reunion committee tried to organize one, it had little success. The river continues to to be a popular attraction for leisure events including the Dragon Boat festival.

The photo above shows the boat regattas which were popular at the turn of the 20th century. The old Dufton Woolen Mills (see Huron  Street) complete with the smokestack can be seen in the background behind the boat house. The photograph above also appears on the cover of Images Canada Stratford Book by Carolynn Bart-Riedstra

Stratford-Perth Archives