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Businesses Bring Boats Back to Riverfront City

March 28, 2013
By JOSELYN KING - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

NEW MARTINSVILLE - New businesses are bringing fast boats and energy to downtown New Martinsville.

A group of business owners banded together last year to revive the former New Martinsville Regatta, renaming it the New Martinsville Records Challenge. The event returns for a second year, and is scheduled for Sept. 28-29 at the city's waterfront.

Deanna McConaughey, a member of both the race committee and the New Martinsville Riverfront Development Committee, said boat races could be added on Sunday if the budget permits. Last year's event consisted of attempts - many successful - to set world speed records.

Article Photos

Deanna McConaughey welcomes patrons to her Presto Lunch restaurant in downtown New Martinsville.

Photo by Joselyn King

The New Martinsville Regatta was an annual happening in the city each fall from 1938 until 2003, and it holds a special place in the hearts of everyone who grew up in New Martinsville, McConaughey noted.

"I grew up with the regatta," she said. "I thought everybody had a regatta. I didn't realize it was unique to the area"

McConaughey, 48, later moved to Florida, and spent most of her adult life there until returning to New Martinsville in 2004 and discovering the regatta had been discontinued.

"The people had been missing the regatta here for nine years," she said. "I heard so much feedback from people asking, 'Do you remember when the boats were here?'

"My sister (Santina Vigliotti) and I were working on a riverfront development committee, and that and restarting the regatta went hand and hand."

McConaughey believes the original regatta folded as the people involved "got older," and the event needed fresh energy.

"We seem to be having that now with new businesses downtown, many of which are owned by young couples," she continued. "There are a few older people steering (the New Martinsville Record Challenge), but with the energy of many young businesses on Main Street."

After her return to New Martinsville, McConaughey and Vigliotti started a fitness and exercise business in a building at 134 North St. near Main Street. They next would reopen their grandmother's Presto Lunch at 319 Main St.

When operation of both businesses proved to be too stressful, they gave up the fitness studio ; the Tranquility Health Spa opened in its place.

The sisters then went on to purchase buildings at 329 Main St., now home to the Tin Ceiling gift shop, and at 136 North St., where a fine arts studio is located.

McConaughey noted it's not unusual for those involved in each of the businesses to help each other out when it is needed - either coming over to flip burgers or take orders at her Presto Lunch during busy times, or watching the neighbor's store while they make a run to the bank.

So she said she wasn't surprised when the young downtown businesses came together last year to contribute $250 each to the New Martinsville Record Challenge.

"It wasn't like it didn't hurt some businesses," McConaughey said. "It's probably what they make in a week ...

"This hasn't been easy - but good isn't always easy."

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