The news that the 2020 St. Peter's Fiesta would be cancelled for late June was a big hit to the local sports scene.
The St. Peter's Fiesta sporting events, most notably the greasy pole and seine boat competitions, are some of the most unique and fun sporting events to cover and to watch as a spectator. The competition is always great, the sports are unique to the city and bring a sense of camaraderie to the community and those who participate.
The Fiesta Committee made the right call, thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder throughout the weekend is not social distancing. Even if some restrictions are lifted by late June, large crowds will almost certainly not be one of them.
There is still hope, however, for the sporting events to take place in some capacity in September, although it is far from being set in stone and looks like a long shot. Here's a look at what we could have seen next month and we could see this coming fall if this pandemic subsides.
The talk of the greasy pole heading into 2020 is obviously the emergence of Derek Hopkins, who put together the most impressive single year run the sport has seen. Not only did Hopkins take down three flags, he won the Friday, Saturday and Sunday contests in the second round, which is the first round where a walker is eligible to win as the opening round is the courtesy round.
Hopkins was so impressive that he would have been able to take down the flag in his courtesy walks as well, so one could say he's a perfect 6-for-6.
The 2019 triple champ is the obvious heavy favorite the next time there is a greasy pole competition. Hopkins made it look effortless the way he used his long strides to quickly step through the grease on his way to the flag.
It's hard to envision anyone else even getting a chance to win after what we saw in 2019. But, this sport can be very unpredictable, and Hopkins will most likely have to win on his first try because there are some seriously talented walkers right behind him that may only need one crack at it to win too.
The seine boat scene has been very interesting on the men's and women's side in recent years, and looks to be again the next time the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria hit Gloucester Harbor.
On the men's side, the Merger has won two of the last three championships and is going for two in a row, something that has not been done since Kaos won three straight from 2009-11. The Merger has been very impressive in recent years and in its winning performances in 2017 and 2019, they turned in a wire-to-wire victory on Sunday.
From what I have heard, the rest of the men's field was going to have a bit of a different look to it as some crews have broken up and other new ones have formed.
On the women's side, two crews have dominated the landscape in recent years with 2019 champ Backlash and Rowgue combining to win the last six championships (Rowgue 4, Backlash 2).
Backlash looked flawless in its championship row last year as a re-tooled crew knocked off the two-time defending champs on the way to their second win since 2016. Rowgue, however, has never lost when entering the field as the challenger, which it will be the next time there are races.
Let's also not forget the Fiesta 5k Road Race, another big Fiesta sporting event that draws hundreds of runners each year.
It's too bad these great events will not take place at their tradition time in late June. But when we do see them again, it will be cause for a great celebration.