West Virginia Hills by Jeff Ellis

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Governor's Cup Regatta, Charleston

     Ask people what they think of when they hear West Virginia mentioned, and whether it's their beloved home or whether they've just passed through on their way to someplace else (and especially if they've never been here at all), it's highly unlikely that anybody would think of crew shells racing on the Kanawha River. In fact, even the biggest sports officianados might not know that Charleston is host to the annual Governor's Cup Regatta, a nationally prominent crew racing invitational that brings teams from all over to compete in various race distances and team combinations. This year's event took place on Saturday, April 24th behind  the campus of the University of Charleston (UC), and was co-sponsored by UC and Huddleston Bolen, LLP, a law firm with offices in Huntington and Charleston, WV, and Ashland and Louisville, KY.
     I really wanted to make the trek to Charleston this year because, thanks to Facebook, I have recently gotten back in touch with some of my old school friends from Parkersburg High, including one of my very best friends who was on the PHS crew team, and who, after graduation, along with several other of the guys who rowed in 1976, went to Morris Harvey (it was still named that back then) to row on their team. And me? I was a crew groupie! For two seasons my girlfriend, Cindy, and I followed them around as they traveled from state to state to compete. In the early part of the seasons, as we stood on the rivers' banks, we'd about freeze to death as we strained our eyes watching the shells come into view, hoping that our guys were in the lead, and in the later part of the seasons we'd about melt from the heat of the sun. But it was all worth it to watch those guys row! Talk about SMOOTH. And they were tight with each other! So much so, that this year they decided to all get together on the UC campus for the Governor's Cup Regatta and alumni reunion. And what a reunion it was! The weather had called for rain, but fortunately it sprinkled only a little bit before noon, and then the temps climbed high into the upper 70s with the sun out in full force the rest of the day! But even with the good weather I'm not sure that any of us caught even one race result for all the talking and hugging and picture taking that went on all afternoon! And from what I heard afterwards, the UC crew reunion went on well into the night!  John and I left around 4:00 to go hang out with his brother, Mike, and his family who live just up the road in Kanawha City. We pretty much collapsed when we got there, and settling into some soft cushiony chairs felt good after sitting on hard ground for most of the day. Plus, we were more than ready to quench our thirst when Mike offered us cold bottles of lemonade and icy Cokes before the two guys went back outside to cook hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. After we ate, John and I stuck around until almost 10:00 while he and Mike kept me in stitches reminiscing about people from their past and stuff they did when they were young; so it was a great day all around!
     As we crossed the bridge back over the Kanawha River to get to the interstate, we could see the lights shining all the way down Kanawha Boulevard on the one side, with the capital building standing prominently on the river's north bank; and we could see the lights shining all the way down MacCorkle Avenue on the other side, with the University of Charleston standing prominently on the river's south bank. High above the water, we could  feel the heart of the Kanawha River as it flowed through West Virginia's seat of government, still beating vibrantly with life! As we drove back in the cool night air north on I77 to Ravenswood we knew without a doubt that this place would always be a welcoming beacon to light our way home.
     (And now a little bit of info for anybody who's interested and may not know: the University of Charleston is a private residential university with close to 1400 students who come from 37 states and 22 countries. From the campus one can be awed by its amazing panoramic view of the West Virginia hills, the Kanawha River, and the state capital building and governor's mansion. It shares its lawn with 1000s of guests for such annual events as Symphony Sunday, Wine and All That Jazz, and Blues, Brews, and BBQ. The college was originally founded by the Southern Methodists in 1888 as Barboursville Seminary in Barboursville, WV,  became a college in 1889, and was renamed Morris Harvey College in 1901 in honor of a prominent donor. During the Depression, the college moved to Charleston, but it wasn't until 1947 that construction of the present facility, which is located on the south bank of the Kanawha River, got underway. In 1942 the college disaffiliated itself from the Methodist Church, and in 1978 the Board of Trustees changed the college's name to the University of Charleston.)


  1. Very nice post! As a life-long resident of Charleston and a U.C. Grad, my pride swells when I read of those who return to find old friends, laughs, and long-lost memories. Best wishes!