Leave it to Pittsburgh to refuse to let the lack of an ocean stop us from some maritime fun.
For four decades, Pittsburgh’s Regatta has brought nautical spectacles to Pittsburgh’s three rivers — and this year’s event adds an air component.
Up to a half-million people are expected to attend the EQT Three Rivers Regatta this year, said John Bonassi, chairman of the Regatta Board of Directors. The free event runs today through Sunday, Downtown with events scheduled throughout each day.
The Regatta will be “bigger and better” this year for its 40th anniversary, said Derek Weber, president of LionHeart Event Group, which produces the Regatta.
“The Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta is the largest inland regatta in the country,” Bonassi said. “The activities take place on the water, at Point State Park and in the air.”
Need more convincing? Here’s why You Gotta Regatta:
10. Stunt shows
With both jet ski stunt shows and BMX stunt shows, action-packed feats will be on display on land and on the water at various times throughout the weekend. Jet skiers will show off flips, barrel rolls and 180s, and high-flying BMX riders will perform stunts.
9. Frisbee dogs
Expertly trained (and adorable) rescue dogs will practice their skills at the K9 Crew Trick Dog Show, performing trick after trick during several shows.
8. Live music — and the possibility of Shreks
More than a dozen bands are set to perform, and Smash Mouth is headlining Saturday night. At least one person wants people to dress up like Shrek for the show.
“I hope that Smash Mouth notice us and feel a welcoming wave of relief and comfort,” this Smash Mouth fan wrote. “I want them to think, ‘It’s OK now. My best friend Shrek is here. I am home. Now we can party.’” More about all of that here.
Acoustic, rock, indie and country (country star Easton Corbin is also playing) round out the schedule.
7. Fireworks — because Pittsburgh
It’s a special event in Pittsburgh, so of course there’s going to be a fireworks show.
The show, dubbed “Regatta Thunder” kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Sunday. It’s being produced by StarFire Corporation, which also set off the city’s July 4 fireworks display.
6. A super-sized sand sculpture
This artfully crafted 200-ton sand sculpture will pay tribute to the Regatta’s 40th anniversary.
5. A ginormous Ferris Wheel
When Pittsburgher George Ferris invented the Ferris wheel, perhaps this is what he dreamed of. This Ferris wheel stands 90-feet tall and is outfitted with LED lights in a dozen dazzling patterns.
In the 1890s after Ferris invented the wheel, a reporter described it as: “an indescribable sensation, that of revolving through such a vast orbit in a bird cage.” Maybe you’ll feel that way, too.
4. Radiance on the rivers
Boaters will decorate their watercraft with lights to add a little sparkle to Saturday night at the Lighted Boat Parade. This year, boats will be themed to honor Pittsburgh icons, from famous Pittsburghers like Andy Warhol to beloved yinzer foods like Primanti Bros.’ sandwiches. Judges will select the best decorations, most lights and the crowd favorite.
“It’s really pretty neat, watching the reflections off the water,” Bonassi said.
3. Will it float?
A hallmark of the Regatta, the Anything that Floats Race offers brave Pittsburghers the chance to build their very own vessel … and then see if it floats. The homemade boats must be made out of household items — no motors or pool toys allowed.
2. Boat racing
Formula 1 Powerboat and F-Lights Powerboats will race at speeds over 100 miles per hour. Formula 1 drivers from three different countries and two different continents are expected to compete on challenging course.
“It’s like the Indy 500 of powerboat racing. This is a very historic location for them to hold these races,” Bonassi said about the drivers. “They love the rivers, they love the crowds that show up.”
1. Red Bull Flugtag
Yes, Regattas are all about the water, but this year, eyes will be on the sky for Red Bull Flugtag, a flying competition making its Pittsburgh debut. Flugtag (pronounced floog-taug), which means “flying day,” will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We refer to the Flugtag as the anything that the flies on steroids,” Bonassi said.
For the competition, competitors crafted homemade human-powered flying machines, which they’ll launch off a 22-foot flight deck along the North Shore in hopes of soaring far enough to break records. Weber describes it as “definitely a can’t-miss.”
Forty teams will participate, many with Pittsburgh-themed names like The Flying Pittsburgh Chair, Polish Spill, Mr. Rogers’ Friendly Skies and Flying Meat Sandwich Bros.
“You take a running start off the flight deck, and then your flying machine should take off from there,” Bonassi said. “Some of them actually will fly.”
As Red Bull describes it: “Teams will either take a dip in the chilly Allegheny River or glide smoothly to the podium.”
“Many of the aircraft do not make it very far,” Bonassi said, but there are a number of engineering schools competing.
“We are honored that they selected Pittsburgh as one of their stops. They are actually an international event,” he said. “To have them here in Pittsburgh, it’s absolutely spectacular.”