(July 12, 2019) BJ’s on the Water’s annual canoe races, which returns for the 40th year to the 75th Street restaurant, will take place on Tuesday, July 16.
Registration will begin on site at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with the races starting an hour later. The cost is $50 for a team of four, consisting of two women and two men. In addition, participants must be 21 or older with a valid ID and wear closed-toe shoes.
“A lot of people call it the social event of the year,” Billy Carder, owner of BJ’s on the Water with his wife, Maddy, said. “It’s a day where restaurant employees can get together – really get together – not just at work and socialize.”
The restaurant will provide the canoes, paddles and life jackets for the event. Participants can only register the day of the event.
The races will kick off at 11 a.m. when the first man and woman teams will paddle around the island behind the restaurant, come back and tag their teammates, who will then hop into the canoe and complete the same half-mile route.
“The nice thing about canoes is not too many people have been in one and almost no one knows how to paddle one, which makes it even more interesting,” Carder said. “In the 40 years we’ve had it, I think the only difference between the two people that are involved in the race now and the ones who were involved in the race [during] the first one is their hairstyles … No one has still ever learned how to paddle a canoe.”
The event first came to fruition when Carder wanted to bring more people into his business during the week.
“When we first opened up, things were slow and I was trying to think of anything that could drum up business … particularly during the week,” Carder said. “With that island out there, it started [getting] me thinking it’s like a natural track.”
Last year, 74 teams participated.
More than one team can represent a business, organization or restaurant. Seacrets, for example, has several teams competing each year, Carder said.
The top three teams will win a trophy and cash prizes. The first-place team will have their name engraved on the official canoe race trophy along with the previous 39 winners and take home $600 and bragging rights. The trophy will remain on display at BJ’s.
The second-place team will receive $400 and the third-place group will win $300.
Each participant will also take home a souvenir T-shirt. They have become collector’s items over the years, Carder said.
Last year, M.R. Ducks came in first place. Ember’s Blu Crabhouse finished second and third place was awarded to Guido’s Burritos.
“We have people that have been in it for years,” Carder said. “It’s open to all. Most people think, ‘Well, I couldn’t get a business to sponsor me.’ We don’t care about that … if you have $50 and you got two guys and two girls you can get into the canoe race.”
Participants are asked to abstain from wearing glitter as part of their costumes, because it washes off in the bay and can cause environmental issues. The glitter could also interfere with the wildfowl sanctuary BJ’s on the Water has been building up for 39 years.
As is tradition, no ducks will be fed during the duration of the races – an event held daily at 1 p.m.
“We have an agreement with the ducks that day,” Carder said. “We usually send them to Fager’s Island or Seacrets for lunch, and that’s on us.”
Drink and food specials will be offered throughout the day. Customers can also view the races from inside the restaurant on several of the mounted televisions or watch directly from the start and finish line.
Carder is proud to say at 40 years, the canoe race is one of the oldest consecutively-run events in Ocean City.
“Next to the White Marlin Open, we’re [one of] the longest continuing-running event in Ocean City,” he said. “[In addition], several establishments make this day their employee party. The owner will pick up the check for the all the employees.”
Every year, the date of the canoe races is determined according to the highest tide in July to make sure the bay has enough water to last five hours of racing.
Races will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Be a part of an Ocean City tradition,” Carder added.
For more information, call BJ’s on the Water at 410-524-7575.