JEFFERSON — A co-founder of the new Jefferson County Rowing Club shared his excitement this week about the group’s proposal to conduct a large, multi-age regatta in September on the Rock River near Puerner Street.
Veteran rowing enthusiast Ken Dollhopf, who currently lives in Green Bay but is building a home near Jefferson, decided it would be a good idea to form a rowing club here.
After doing so, he and two of the group’s co-founders took a step further and are planning the multi-team regatta for Sept. 11 at Rock River Landing Park. The races are a done deal, pending the approval tonight by the Jefferson Common Council.
Dollhopf called the Rock River at Jefferson “extremely nice” and appropriate for such an event.
“I’ve been with the Green Bay rowing club for about 20 years and we’ve done regattas up here near St. Norbert College,” Dollhopf said of the events held on the Fox River south of Green Bay. “I am also a member of the Oak Ridge, Tennessee rowing club and this style of an event that we are proposing in Jefferson is something they do 15 times in a year down there.”
Dollhopf said his interest in rowing developed while he was a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
“And with moving to Jefferson, and being very familiar with rowing groups in Madison and in Milwaukee — and Jefferson being right between those two cities — we thought it was a great location,” he said. “There aren’t many races in the Midwest, so that is the reason for starting this event that we are calling the WISCO Chase Rowing Regatta.”
The races are on a 3-kilometer course on the Rock River and clubs that have confirmed they will participate are coming from as far away as St. Cloud, Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago. Teams from Rockford, Illinois; Dubuque, Iowa and other Midwest cities may also be dipping oars in the Rock’s waters this September.
“The relatively new Rock River Landing Park is absolutely perfect for it,” Dollhopf said. “Had that park not been where it is, it would be hard to put on a regatta like this. We looked at a lot of the little towns down there and we liked what we saw in Jefferson.”
Dollhopf is confident that the regatta will get the approval of the city’s common council tonight.
“We met a couple of times with the city’s park and recreation department over the past four or five months and I’ve done this many times all the way up to the national level, so we feel good about it,” he said. “As long as you put the plans out there and have everything all set, you are OK. We met with the police department and traffic on the Puerner Street Bridge will be somewhat affected the day of the event.”
The event is sanctioned by the University of Wisconsin’s rowing group, with their officials being scheduled to confirm safety and timing.
“There is no confirmation that we will have collegiate teams, but we hope to in the future,” Dollhopf said, adding future years in Jefferson are already being considered.
Jefferson Director of Parks and Recreation Cyndi Keller said Dollhopf first contacted the city in December of 2021 to discuss the possibility of holding the regatta in the city.
“At one of our first meetings, we included both the Jefferson County Parks Director Kevin Weismann, Police Lt. Joe Szwec, Chief Ken Pileggi, Mayor Dale Oppermann and myself,” Keller said. “The city’s reaction was that we were very encouraged to have this type of event here. This regatta fits very nicely with our tagline, ‘We’re Going Outside.’ After meeting with Ken, it was apparent that his organization has been very successful running this type of event in the past. Past regattas have been held at the St. Norbert College campus. They have recently done some renovations near the waterfront, which made it very hard to continue with this event on campus, plus the organizer, Ken, is planning on moving to Jefferson County soon. He has organized a new LLC for a rowing group.”
Keller said the city is also partnering with Dollhopf’s rowing group to offer a “learn-to-row” recreation program this summer.
“We feel very confident that this event will happen this fall,” Keller said. “It is our hope that this event will continue to grow in popularity and encourage more people to become interested in rowing. Since we don’t have any shelters at this park, we do not have a ‘reservation fee’ in place. We are charging them a special event fee along with a deposit. They will be coming in with the amenities that they will need to make this a successful event.”
Keller said she is, “excited and encouraged” to hold this type of event in the City of Jefferson.
“We are always looking for new ideas that utilize the rivers that dissect our community. We are looking forward to working with the Jefferson County Rowing Club to make this a successful event that will continue to grow throughout the years,” she said.
Dollhopf said the Rotarians in Jefferson have offered to help out with providing food and beverages if the event happens.
“This should be a lot of fun,” Dollhopf said. “Regattas are great.”