Head of the Fish, Saratoga Rowing Association
One scull, eight people, oars cutting through the water, gliding across its top. Simply magical. Ten lanes of these synchronized sculls propelling across the water is mesmerizing. This weekend, over 170 teams will embark on Fish Creek for the Head of the Fish Regatta. About twenty years ago, Chris Chase, Regatta Director and Freshman Coach for Saratoga Rowing Association, was approached by a group of Saratoga High School students about starting a rowing program. He accepted the challenge and has held those positions ever since. During that time, he has impacted many lives locally and nationally through the sport of crew and the many regattas he has overseen.
The beauty of rowing is that it’s a lifetime sport. After the explosion of high school rowing and Title IX in college, crew became an overnight boom. High school rowers became college rowers, college rowers moved on and wanted to continue the sport. This led to more Open and Master’s level competitions. In the past twenty years, the growth of high school rowing in New York has exploded to ninety-two teams. The Head of the Fish dedicates Saturday to Open, College and Master’s teams while Sunday is reserved for High School races. Like a well-oiled machine, each race starts at fifteen second intervals to allow all boats to finish before sun down. Chris is a proud coach, crediting the more than 200 students on the team and during his reign, 136 Division 1 scholarships awarded to Saratoga rowers. Chris takes his role seriously with respect to the students. He continues to coach because of the impact crew has had on so many athletes. The rowers are bettering themselves, improving fitness, and promoting teamwork, which in turn betters our community.
The most unique aspect of the Head of the Fish is the trophies. Tom Frost, a local architect, started this unusual tradition when the regatta began. It takes approximately 7 hours to make one trophy. The life of a trophy begins as a real fish, caught in the Salmon River. The fish heads are then embalmed and double baked, painted and glued to a base. Eyeballs have even been added from the popular kids toy, Mr. Potato Head! These are coveted awards for competing teams.
The regattas happen outside of tourist season, which boosts the local economy by $8-15 million per year. In 2010, Chris’ most recent statistics, 45,000 people visited the area as spectators. For the Head of the Fish alone, 90% of those visitors were from out of the area, equating to revenue for local hotels, restaurants and shops in addition to introducing people to the Saratoga area. Join us for dinner http://www.longfellows.com/restaurant, visit our sister property for lunch or dinner http://www.oldebryaninn.com or if you need a place to stay, Longfellows Hotel is one mile from Fish Creek. To make reservations or book a room, call 518-587-0108 or visit http://www.longfellows.com.
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