The Astoria Regatta, a festival now in its 123rd year, is continuing its unique traditions — hence, this year’s theme: “Full Steam Ahead” — including an opening highlight: the Queen’s Coronation.
On Wednesday, Aug. 9, Aubrey McMahan, the 2016 queen from Knappa, will pass her crown to one of four Regatta princesses.
As Regatta Court members, the young women are constantly in the spotlight. And McMahan — the student Knappa High School has relied on to sing the National Anthem at sporting events — is used to being in the public eye.
But when she joined Regatta, she said the attention became more frequent, and a reminder of the importance of personal responsibility, treating others with respect and maintaining one’s reputation.
“It made me strive to be a better person,” McMahan said. “People know you’re a hard worker. It was about proving it to myself.”
As advice for the future queen, McMahan said not to panic about being the center of attention; the community will support her. “Everyone who cares about Regatta cares about your well-being,” she said. “You are who you are, and that is the most fantastic thing about you.”
‘That’s a princess!’
This year’s festival is a five-day event beginning with the Queen’s Luncheon at noon Wednesday, Aug. 9, followed by the Queen’s Coronation at 6 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be rewarding yet bittersweet when they announce the new queen,” McMahan said.
Several signature events follow, including the Regatta Square, Admiral’s Reception, Grand Land Parade, Highwater Boat Parade, fireworks show and Seamen’s Memorial.
“My favorite is still the Seamen’s Memorial,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Dan Travers, this year’s Regatta president, who has spoken at the memorial twice. “It’s a touching event.”
In addition, the Regatta includes sailboat races, a concert, and a movie night and barbecue in Warrenton.
Children can make floats for the Kiwanis Junior Parade, held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10. The float that wins first place will be invited to partake in the Grand Land Parade.
Regatta is a time to celebrate the new queen and the hard work the princesses have done, which includes giving speeches, making appearances and attending parades. Court members are Sydney Ordway, Megan Postlewait, Rebecca Sprengeler and Mackenzie Strain.
McMahan said the Regatta court builds character and confidence.
“Being a princess was like, ‘You can do it,” she said. “There’s nothing like walking around, all matching with our sashes, pins and crowns, and all the little girls … saying, ‘That’s a princess, that’s a princess!’”
As queen, McMahan has been someone for the princesses to rely on for advice and guidance. “It’s nice to form the sisterhood with the girls.”
McMahan described her meetings with the Regatta members as a happy place and a chance for them to separate themselves from difficulties in their lives.
‘Representing our community’
Travers, who retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2016, said he wanted to be president because Regatta is a meaningful event, and he believes in its mission.
“I was fortunate to get selected,” Travers said. “I thought, ‘This is a fun group of people.’”
As president, Travers is in charge of coordinating meetings and fundraising events, making sure there are enough staff and volunteers, and working with the Regatta court. “This community is absolutely amazing,” Travers said. “People are so giving, so thoughtful. Regatta means a lot.”
There are 15 people on the Regatta board, including Dan Arnoth, who has been involved in Regatta since 1989.
To him, Regatta means heritage, he said. “I fell in love with the float and the court and have been doing it ever since.”
Before becoming a board member in 1992, Arnoth was an escort to the court and president. He has been involved with Regatta for 18 years and now organizes the Grand Land Parade. “I’ve done every event for Regatta. You name it, I’ve done it,” he said.
Arnoth was also involved in the Astoria Regatta’s award-winning float. “It’s been very successful,” he said.
Most notably, the Astoria Regatta Festival Float earned first place for commercial entries in the 2017 Portland Rose Festival Starlight Parade.
“I feel we’ve reached our goal representing the community,” Arnoth said.
This year, the Astoria Regatta Festival Float, presented by Columbia Bank, earned first place for commercial entries in the Portland Rose Festival Starlight Parade and for a community festival in the Long Beach Loyalty Days Parade.
The 2016 Regatta Queen, Aubrey McMahan, sat on the Columbia Bank love seat while the princesses stood on the side of the float. It also received the Clatsop County Community Award in the Warrenton Fourth of July Parade and the Mayor’s Trophy in the Ilwaco Kids Loyalty Days Parade.
The float will be featured in the Grand Land Parade during the Regatta festival with the 2017 queen sitting on the love seat.