WHEELING - When Debbie and Dan Joseph first began dating, many of their first dates involved going to hydroplane boat races.
Now, the couple has created one of the premiere vintage raceboat events on the East Coast, with this year's Wheeling Vintage Regatta serving as the eighth-annual weekend event.
Debbie Joseph said her husband has always had a fascination with raceboats and used to attend the New Martinsville Regatta as a child. Years later in 2000, the couple bought their hydroplane boat online. They soon bought another one, as did other members of Dan's family.
FUN ON THE WATER — Vintage hydroplanes are coming to Wheeling this weekend as part of the Wheeling Vintage Regatta. -- Staff photo
"It really has become a family hobby," Debbie Joseph said.
After working to restore and maintain three boats, the Josephs began traveling to various events on the East Coast. Debbie Joseph said each time they would return home to Wheeling, she and her husband would be reminded that the Friendly City had all of the necessary infrastructure - and water - to hold its own successful event. They took their idea to Wheeling city leaders in September 2005, and were initially met with silence.
"They admittedly had no idea what we were talking about," Debbie Joseph said. "But they liked our enthusiasm."
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Raceboat registration, Heritage Port (pits open to the public)
Saturday and Sunday
9:15 a.m. - Ohio River closed to through traffic; buoys placed and course set.
9:45 a.m. - Opening ceremonies, blessing and United States and Canadian national anthems.
10 a.m. to noon -Heats of vintage hydroplanes and raceboats on the Ohio River.
Noon to 1:30 p.m. - Ohio River opened to regular river traffic; radio-controlled airplane shows by the Ohio Valley Hillhoppers; free autograph session with race boat drivers (free posters to the first 100 people); music by Hit Play.
1:30 p.m. - River closed to through traffic; buoys placed and course set; Sea Quest Kids boats testing and racing on the Ohio River.
2 p.m. to 6 p.m. - Heats of vintage hydroplanes and raceboats on the Ohio River.
6 p.m. - Ohio River opened to through traffic.
7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. - Rust Belt Kings with Joe Zelek.
9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. - Easy Street. In case of inclement weather, Saturday musical entertainment will be moved indoors to WesBanco Arena.
The first regatta was held in 2006, and since then it has attracted competitors from a number of states. This year's event will feature nearly 50 boats, including one, Midnight Miss, which will be coming all the way from Queensland, Australia. Owner Graham Coddington shipped the boat to America in April and is traveling to about a half-dozen vintage events, including Wheeling's.
With Midnight Miss and at least one Canadian entry confirmed to attend, Joseph said for the first time, three nations will be represented at the event.
In addition to the action on the water, the event helps serve the local community. Since the inaugural regatta in 2006, event organizers have donated a total of $34,650 to the Easter Seals' Wheeling center. Last year's event raised $7,500, compared to $900 in 2006. Major sponsors for this year's event include WesBanco, A.D. Baker Homes, Merco Marine, Savage Crane and Construction, the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, Lowe's of Wheeling and Comcast.
The free admission event will begin on Friday when the vintage raceboats and hydroplanes begin to arrive in Wheeling. The pits are open on Friday to allow visitors to see the boats up close. Opening ceremonies begin at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with the first runs taking place at 10 a.m. Heats begin at 2 p.m.
Saturday's event also includes live music from the Rust Belt Kings with Joe Zelek and Easy Street.