'Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta' returns to Philadelphia after year off amid the pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia welcomed over a thousand college athletes back to the city Saturday for the historic Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuykill River.

With the pandemic in mind, the meet was scaled back from prior years with 45 teams competing in the 82nd regatta.

"We said we'd sacrifice everything so people can race. We have no spectators," said James Hanna, the president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee. "Everyone is masking up and maintaining social distance."

The race was condensed into one day instead of its usual two, and while spectators were prohibited, some fans still spread out along the Schuylkill River, cheering from bridges and points along Fairmount Park.

"What we can't have are people clogged together and shoulder to shoulder," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Kenney says the ability to hold this race shows the city is slowly returning to normalcy.

"It's been a year plus of real disappointment, death, change in everyone's routine. The Dad Vail and institutions like this really bring us back to where we were and center us again," he said.

Hanna added, "One word you don't hear often anymore is 'joy.' If you want to see joy, just look at the athlete's faces."

One of those athletes was Alex DeNolfo, a Temple University graduate student who participated in one of the last races of his college career, and he wanted to win.

"We're in it for the racing. We want to win a title, so with or without people here, it makes no difference," he said.

Like the thousand other athletes there, he said he's grateful for the opportunity to compete.
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