This year – just like every year since 1984 – David Hargrove plans to celebrate Father’s Day by having breakfast with his family while taking in the view on the Savannah waterfront.
“My girls always have a card for me,” Hargrove said. “They always come down and give me a big kiss and wish me happy Father’s Day.”
It is not so much the view, however, or the breakfast or the card he looks forward to every year – its the trip.
Hargrove and more than 100 others will spend this weekend continuing a Father’s Day tradition that has lasted for six decades – making a 370-mile-round-trip journey to Savannah by water.
The trip begins this morning when a flotilla of about 30 boats departs from a landing on the Savannah River in Burke County. It will return the following afternoon, said Hargrove, who will be making his 28th consecutive trip.
The tradition began with his father, Cliff Hargrove, and others in the Augusta Boating Club back in the early 1950s.
Hickey Dewberry, 81, said the first trip was in 1952. The boats were smaller and the trip took longer, he said.
“We had a lot of 25-horsepower motors,” Dewberry said. “We put in below the Lock and Dam. When we arrived, the Savannah Boating Club met us and had drinks and sandwiches for us.”
Dewberry said the small boats could not carry enough fuel for the entire trip so they had to arrange for refueling along the way.
“A fellow from Sylvania had a gas truck, and he would come to the bridge and fill us up,” he said. “We had to carry our tanks up to the bridge.”
Today’s boats are bigger, faster and carry a lot more fuel, he said.
“That’s why I quit going,” he said. “The motors get bigger and everything turns into a race.”
Over the years, the number of families has waxed and waned, but Hargrove said about 120 to 150 people take part each year.
“Our high-water mark was 106 boats sometime in the late ’90s,” he said, estimating that as many as 500 people made the journey that year.
The six-hour journey downriver to Savannah is basically a moving party that stops at sandbars along the way for food and refreshments.
Hargrove said the trip has become an important tradition for his family. His two daughters and their husbands also go every year.
The group departs from property his father purchased on the river in 1956, he said.
“I really feel compelled to do it because my dad (was) a part of it for so long,” he said. “The river has become a big part of my life.”