Largest "Hooch" yet brings millions to local economy - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Largest "Hooch" yet brings millions to local economy

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Around 20,000 people spent the day on Chattanooga's riverfront Saturday and are back for Sunday.

The Head of the Hooch event brings thousands of rowers to Chattanooga each year and plenty of spectators, but organizers say this is the biggest Hooch to date. Around 9,700 rowers from 27 states and three countries are speeding down the Tennessee River.

"This is our biggest head of the Hooch ever. This year it's actually grown another 5-percent," Assistant Regatta Director Doug Beville said.

Then add on thousands of spectators lining downtown streets and bridges. Last year, it generated nearly $5 million for the local economy. "This year I know for a fact that number is going to be dramatically higher because we have more people coming to town and staying longer," Beville said.

"Chattanooga specifically there's great places to eat, great places to stay. It's a nice venue to have the event as opposed to just coming and leaving," Huntsville Alabama's Rocket City Rowing Club member Grant Baird said.

"Now they come on Wednesday because Chattanooga is so hospitable," Head of the Hooch spokesperson Deb Farrell said.

As it gains in popularity, more local businesses are cashing in from the Hooch crowd for the first time. "This is a good kick start for us and it really brings our name into the community more since we're the only store with so it's a great opportunity," Chattanooga's Honeybaked Ham Manager Daniel Wilbanks said.

"I love that there are so many vendors," Northwestern University Crew team captain Courtney Schepeler said.

The Head of the Hooch has grown into the largest single site rowing regatta in the U.S. and that means competition is at an all-time high.  "Any rower is really psyched to have a medal from here but being able to walk away with gold is extra special," McCallie Crew's Scott Shoup said.

"We make a really, really big deal out of it," Baird said.

"We work a really long time to have a very short race. We've put in thousands if not tens of thousands of hours," McCallie Crew's Abagail Roberts said.

The first timers say it's worth the entire year of training it takes to compete. "Shouldn't be better rowing conditions and I think it's a great race course and it's very competitive," Schepeler said.

"It's the best race of the year," Baird said.

The Hooch also hosts a Row for the Cure race, which raises money for Chattanooga's Susan G. Komen For The Cure. They've raised almost $500,000 over the last five years that benefits local cancer patients.
They also started a new charity this year Rebuild Rowing -- sending money to northeast rowing teams who've been affected by Hurricane Sandy.

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