By Charles Bartlett
Can you fathom the City of Vallejo turning the Downtown neighborhood into a road race course for high-powered race cars? Indeed we did, and it was called the Vallejo Grand Prix. My memory of this race was jogged by the upcoming Bathtub Regatta.
The Vallejo Grand Prix was certainly not a long-standing tradition as it was only held for four consecutive years. Ultimately it succumbed to liability issues as insurance for the one-day event became cost prohibitive.
Hundreds of people standing behind the hay bails, watching the cars struggle for traction as they accelerated around the street corners. The very same corners and intersections that we walked across everyday.
The roar of the engines reverberating through the downtown streets was great fun. Downtown Vallejo truly felt alive.
As the regatta approaches next week, I wonder how many Vallejoans realize this is actually the return of the event. I recall the first regatta from long ago because my Father and a bunch of friends built an enormous pontoon boat in our driveway.
Complete with a cast iron claw foot bathtub, it was built and launched at the race within 24 hours.
What chance does a 10′ x 10′ platform buoyed by a dozen 55 gallon drums have of winning? Not much. Add a 200 lb. cast iron bathtub and you may as well christen it the USS Futility.
But building the boat only for the sake of winning would entirely miss the point. The 48 hours of work, jokes, laughs, and occasional accidents are what friends and community are all about.
It’s something you can’t get from social media or an online forum. The kind of reward that only comes from physical participation.
Even if you’re just a 9 year old boy leaning against the waterfront railing, cheering your Dad along to the finish line, you are participating in something real that defines you and your community.
I am definitely looking forward to the return of the regatta as it signals Vallejo’s return to a time when fun and exciting events were common.
Hopefully the Bathtub Regatta joins The Obtanium Cup and Pirate Festival as one of the great regular Vallejo events.