The Astoria Regatta, the city’s oldest annual celebration, is canceled over the coronavirus.

The Astoria Regatta Association decided to cancel the festival, scheduled to begin on Aug. 5, following Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement earlier this month calling for all large events in Oregon to be canceled or significantly modified through September.

Queen Mara Dowaliby

Mara Dowaliby was crowned queen of the Astoria Regatta last year.

The governor said festivals, live sporting events with audiences, concerts and conventions cannot take place until there is a reliable treatment for the virus or prevention like a vaccine.

“We are incredibly disappointed that we will not be celebrating Regatta this year,” Erik Thorsen, the CEO of Columbia Memorial Hospital and the president of the Astoria Regatta Association, said in a statement.

“Our newly selected Regatta Court, Regatta dignitaries and all our volunteers were looking forward to creating a fantastic 2020 Regatta celebration.”

The festival honors the region’s maritime culture and history and dates back to 1894.

This is not the first time the event has been canceled. Regatta was suspended during World War I, after the Astoria fire of 1922 and again during World War II.

“Fortunately, the pandemic does not stop us from continuing to provide leadership opportunities and scholarships to young women in our community,” Thorsen said.

“I’d like to thank everyone who pledged their support for the Regatta and the education fund.”

Mara Dowaliby, last year’s Regatta queen and a senior at Warrenton High School, said the Regatta cancellation was even harder to come to terms with than the school closures.

“Regatta is such a fun thing to do and I enjoy every part of it,” she said. “This was my queen year so it was supposed to be a really fun year because I get to sit back and relax and just have fun and enjoy it all.

“And now that’s kind of taken away, which is really, really sad. But I know that Regatta is going to honor us somehow and still make something special for us. I’m happy for that, but it’s really hard to miss all that.”

Dowaliby said she was looking forward to all the events with the other girls on the court this year. Zoey Alexander, of Seaside High School, Mia McFadden, of Warrenton High School, Gabrielle Morrill, of Knappa High School, and Annalyse Steele, of Astoria High School, made up this year’s court.

“And I was really looking forward to getting to know them and hearing their speeches and seeing them grow,” Dowaliby said. “I’m more sad for them because they didn’t have the experience I did last year.

“Last year, Regatta, for me, was incredible. We had such a great year and I wanted those girls to have that same experience. Now they won’t get that, which is too bad. But they’re all amazing girls and they’ll all get through it and hopefully be honored in some way.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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