PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 45th annual Head of the Schuylkill Regatta continued Sunday  — and for the second day, the Schuylkill River came alive.

The race began in 1971 and regatta organizers say since then attendance has sky rocketed with up to 50,000 spectators expected.

“It’s a lot of fun to go through these head races,” said Bess Russett of Toronto. “To go through all of that work and then just coming out in the end, even if you don’t medal, it’s still just a great experience and you just feel so good afterwards.”

Regatta officials say the first year they had about 180 participants, this year there were more than 8,000. So the race has really come far and its participants have come far, too, with some folks coming from as far away as Japan, Australia and even the United Kingdom.

“Compared to what we’re used to back home, this is fantastic,” said King’s College School student Patrick Duggan. “We’ve never been to a place where you shut down the city to let you compete at a rowing race.”

Others didn’t have to log nearly as many miles, but say the event was no less memorable.

“Crew isn’t really a huge sport elsewhere,” said Rebecca Tauber from Lower Merion High School. “So it’s really nice rowing in Philadelphia where it’s this really big hub and we don’t have to travel very far to get here.”

Regatta officials say much has changed since its 1971 roots. That year, twelve women participated. In recent years, female competitors outnumber their male counterparts, something Russett says she loves about the sport.

“We’re always so proud to be an all girls school,” she said, “like rowing, showing all the other boys we can do just what they can do.”

While some things have changed, other things, like the event’s place in Philadelphia history and tradition, remain the same.