“I have this memory of seeing this giant wig, this giant head of hair, rowing down the river in a boat,” says Paul Heaton. “It was quite a spectacle.” A member of the DC Strokes and the director of this year’s regatta, Heaton is recalling the year men in drag rowed as part of the day-long sporting event. “Very often, we have a fun race as part of the regatta,” he says. “One year, we had people in superhero costumes rowing down the river.”
This year’s Stonewall Regatta will feature 200 entries, with more than 400 rowers hailing from across America — including Baltimore, New York, Chicago, California, even France. Race categories include everything from single rowers to eight-man boats, as well as adaptive rowing events for people with disabilities.
“It’s amazing to watch the effort that these athletes put into rowing, some of whom are rowing with just their arms, for example,” Heaton says of the adaptive events. “It’s inspiring to see them compete.”
The best place to watch the races, which start every eight minutes, is near the finish line at the Anacostia Community Boathouse. Other good vantage points include Anacostia Community Park, opposite the boathouse, the footbridge along the Anacostia River Trail, and the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge.
If you make it to the boathouse, you’ll find a party atmosphere, with spectators enjoying treats from the Peruvian Brothers and Far East Taco food trucks, and listening to music from Kirkabee Deejays.
While the Stonewall Regatta is an officially sanctioned competition of U.S. Rowing, Heaton says there’s often a spirit of camaraderie among the various race entrants, who assist each other with their boats and provide volunteers to serve as coxswain — or steersmen — for some of the larger team events.
“One of the things I enjoy about Stonewall,” says Heaton, “is the coming together of people with a shared passion, people who come out and support each other. It’s truly friendly competition.”
The 24th Annual Stonewall Regatta is Sunday, June 4 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Anacostia Community Boathouse, 1900 M St. SE. Admission is free for spectators. For more information, visit stonewallregatta.com.
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