A day at the races — not what it used to be

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As a St. John’s native, I have many fond memories of Regatta Day. My mom brought me to the lake as a little girl to play games of chance, buy some tickets, watch the races and enjoy the food.

I’ve spent the last five years on the opposite side of the booth, desperately trying to raise money for the non-profit organization I am involved in. When I began fundraising, the Regatta seemed to be such a great endeavour. Who wouldn’t want to support a charity at the Regatta? What I’ve come to realize is the Regatta has turned into a disgusting commercial event.

To start off, preference of ground space is given to vendors based on the number of years they have been participating — whether or not the vendor is a charity is irrelevant.

After four tedious years of being in a spot way down the lake on a slope where no one could see us, I contacted the Regatta committee in March 2013 to talk about Year 5. I laid my cards on the table. My group is a charity that depends on this fundraiser. I informed them that I would be willing to send in my application and payment five months in advance if it meant getting a better location.

Someone replied to my email and told me they would work with me to secure a better spot, there was no need to pay early. Wonderful, I thought, this year we’re going to be treated fairly!

As the old expression goes, don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched. I filled out the application early in the summer and was told payment wouldn’t be necessary until they figured out where we would be. When it got to be a week before the Regatta and I still hadn’t heard, I made a trip to the boathouse. “The ground won’t be staked until Sunday, we can’t let you know until then.” Huh?

When I questioned this arrangement, I was told by a committee member that they can’t just give away prime locations of vendors who have been participating for 80 years and give it to me when I was only around for four or five years. I don’t know about you, but to me, this isn’t good enough. Vendors should be required to make deposits on their ground space well in advance so the committee can figure out who is coming back.

I was initially irritated with the Regatta committee until I realized that these people are just doing their jobs — it’s the system that is flawed.

I understand the old adage “first come, first served” but it’s silly to expect this to work. If people have had booths for generations and they still have spaces that are the cream of the crop, no one else will ever get a chance. In my opinion, charities and non-profits should be given consideration. My group gives 100 per cent of its profits to the organization, yet we get the worst circumstances. By giving charities a break, the Regatta would represent a sense of community instead of representing the greed of personal vendors looking to make a quick buck by charging people $6 for a hotdog and $5 for a three-minute horseback ride.

I walked around the lake the night the ground was staked and saw the same individual’s name in at least five spaces (none of which were for charity) — that’s gluttony.

While the Regatta is primarily about the races, it has developed into a family event; a carnival-type of day for all to enjoy. I’ve had parents come to my booth and say, “Oh good, you guys are for charity, we’ll support you.” They want to show their children that my group and other charities raise money to benefit worthy causes and the community.

My group also prices things reasonably so families can afford to bring their kids without having to bring the bank behind them.

As I’ve said before, the problems that exist between the Regatta committee and the vendors are directly related to an outdated system. Perhaps the way things are organized worked 20 years ago, but I can assure you it’s not working now. It’s 2013 and the times are a changin’. I think it’s time for the Regatta to change, too.


M.A Clements writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Regatta committee

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Recent comments

  • Over Priced
    August 26, 2013 - 22:53

    I never took my two children down to the lake this year. Both of them have been going to the Regatta ever since they have been born. Sick of wasting money on over priced games and crappy food. With that being said, I took the same money I would of wasted down there in less than twenty minutes and bought some lovely school clothes, book bags and much needed school supplies. At least I have something to show for it. Thanks M.A. Clements!!

  • Observer
    August 26, 2013 - 08:38

    It's no good complaining about the situation if you're not going to propose a solution. It's one thing to rant about the Regatta committee's" outdated system " and expect them to fix It. Nowhere in your letter do you say how you would do things any better. You yourself have failed to set out a plan to improve booth allotments , which seems to suggest that there is no easy fix. Besides, there's no harm in vendors wanting to make money. They always have and our Regatta is no different from summer fairs everywhere. Seems to me that all parties have to sit down together and hash out a solution. A lottery, perhaps? Making the Regatta committee look like the bad guy on the editorial page of the newspaper isn't helping your cause either.

  • Dee
    August 26, 2013 - 07:49

    You are right like everything if you are known then you get priority if you are not then you take crap.It's all politics my dear most what's down on that lake would shin a pig for a buck,you are right how people are full of greed,I only have one child how does a family of 3-4 kids along with their parents go there spend money on wheels then a slice of pizza and a drink cost $8.00.money grabbers.there should be a rotating wheel each year everyone moves around the wheel some years it's good other years it's crap.Or like the camp parks or concert tickets first come first serve.Also you should of named your charity most people like to know these things.

  • Ryan
    August 26, 2013 - 07:42

    I totally agree. Espically about some greedy hotdog cart vendors. I went to one and asked for a hotdog, misses took it out of a boiler tossed it on the BBQ for a few seconds tossed it in a bin and gave it to me, she then said $5. I looked at her and said, $5 for this measly thing, passed it back to her and said dream on. I then proceeded on to the CLB booth to buy my hotdog