The 2017 Head of the Grand Regatta kicks off

After his first time watching the Head of the Grand Regatta, Jim Perkins said he was shocked. Perkins looked over the Grand River in awe as he stood from his Waverly Bridge standpoint. Even as the advisor to the Michigan State University’s Crew Club, he said that the race was a sight to behold “I didn’t even recognize my own river, it looked so vital and dynamic,” Perkins said.

The Head of the Grand Regatta is an annual home race for MSU, a collaboration between the Crew Club and MSU’s Women’s varsity program. The race has been an MSU tradition since 1992, spanning a 2 mile, or 3,500 km, distance.

Originally, the event began as a collegiate-only event. MSU students would race down the set distance, but over the years, it has expanded into a two-day event, which includes a series of high school races on Saturday and collegiate races on Sunday. In fact, the event seems to only continue expanding.

“We have grown to a point to actually cap entries this year to 14 programs at the junior level,” said Crew Club Head Coach Bryan Pape. “The high school event is invitation only, and unfortunately, we had to turn some programs away.”

Pape said that the race’s purpose is twofold. First, it allows the MSU Crew Club to get the first race of the season out of the way, and by hosting the event, they are able to recruit a number of local high school rowing programs. Pape said it’s exciting to see the reactions of people who have never attended a boat race.

“Parents who have no idea about what to expect come and see why their kids are excited about a rowing class they joined a month ago,” said Pape.

Pape said that for people interested in attending, they can expect the format to be “sort of like a cross country race,” in the sense that various universities are pitted against each other. This year, fans can expect to see Michigan Technological University, Eastern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University join MSU on the competition roster.

Emily Regan is an MSU alumna of the Regatta and an Olympic gold medalist.

But just because people who attend the regatta might not have the most experience rowing, Perkins said it can be telling demonstration for athletes with a lot of hidden talent. Emily Regan is an MSU alumna who was a walk-on at the undergraduate level with very little rowing experience but went on to row for the college, then the national team, and eventually, she won gold at the summer Olympics in 2016.

“Those are the kind of stories you read about,” Perskins said. “Real success stories.”

Pape said he encourages people to drop by during the weekend and watch the racing. He suggests Moores River Drive as a good vantage point with plentiful parking, anytime between late morning and early afternoon.

“There are a lot of spots to watch from, on the south side of the river, like Francis park, and the fact that it is spread out through a long stretch of the river,” said Perkins.

The race begins at Waverly Bridge and ends at the Martin Luther King Bridge.

“It should be an interesting event,” said Pape.

The Head of the Grand Regatta

Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15 Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

FREE Grand River Park, Lansing For more information, visit: ow.ly/FZSq30fLLgb