Documentary will appeal to Park City’s love for rowing |

Documentary will appeal to Park City’s love for rowing

Park City Rowing Academy has partnered with the Park City Film Series and the Park City Summit County Arts Council to give a sneak-preview screening of Margaret Grossi’s documentary “Boys of ‘36” at the Jim Santy Auditorium on Sunday.
(Courtesy of the Park City Summit County Arts Council)

Park City is a special place for rowing.

It’s home to Olympian Devery Karz, who will compete in Rio in a few weeks. It’s the
town that Meghan Ricci of the Seattle University Women’s Rowing Team calls home and it’s where Niklaus Hess, a former international rower, founded
Park City Rowing Academy.

That makes Park City a logical place to host a free sneak preview screening of Margaret Grossi’s documentary “Boys of ‘36,” at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium on Sunday, July 31, at 6 p.m.

“Boys of ‘36,” not rated, is based on the book “Boys of the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. It’s the story of nine working-class young men from the University of Washington who unexpectedly beat the Ivy League teams and Adof Hitler’s German rowers and won the gold medal during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Last year, Park City Rowing worked with the Park City Education Foundation to introduce the book to the One Book/One Community summer reading program for Park City School District, Hess said.

“The author came to Park City and introduced the book to the students and that was a great time for me because it inspired some juniors to come and row,” Hess said. “It was also nice for me to see that someone, like Daniel James Brown, was interested enough in the sport to go from not knowing anything to explaining everything in so much detail.”

The book also had an impact on Hess’ life.

“I started rowing internationally from the time I was 17 until I was 27 and, although there was a time when I didn’t row for a 15-year period, it was present every day in my life since 1979,” he said.

When Hess turned 50, someone gave him the book as a birthday present.

“It was a nice and thoughtful present, but it stood on my nightstand for two years because I didn’t want to read about rowing,” he said. “I knew ‘everything’ there was to know about rowing.”

One year, Hess and his family decided to take a road trip to Taos, New Mexico, so he decided to download the audio book and listen to it while driving.

“That didn’t last too long,” he said emotionally. “Once it started, it immediately took me back to my international competitions. I had to pull over seven times because the book was telling my story. It really hit home.”

Although the “Boys of the Boat” is about rowing, it also tells other stories.

“That’s the beauty of the book,” Hess said. “I learned about the Great Depression. I learned about how my sport was 80 years ago. I consider it a masterpiece.”

After Brown introduced the book to Park City, he told Hess he sold the rights for the documentary.

“I’m not sure how I got the email, but PBS approached a group of rowing coaches about screening the film and I jumped on it,” Hess said. “At the same time, I grew to know a network of people in the community who I haven’t had access to before.”

Two people in the network were Park City Summit County Arts Council Executive Director Hadley Dynack and Park City Film Series Executive Director Katharine Wang.

“They helped me hammer this screening together,” Hess said. “Otherwise I would not have known where to even start.”

Additional community partners for the screening include Park City Library, Summit County Library, Park City Education Foundation and KUED.

“There are no words to express my gratitude to them,” Hess said.

Hess formed Park City Rowing Academy in 2010.

“It’s my passion and I decided wherever the world brought me, I wanted to pass that love on,” he said. “When I got the chance to do that with the Park City Rowing Academy, we had only six boats and maybe three kids who were interested in rowing.”

Hess kept at it and went through a couple of challenging years.

“I did it because this was something I needed to present to the community,” he said.

In 2013, things turned around because of Park City High School junior Meghan Ricci.

“It was through this one kid that things just exploded,” Hess said. “Meghan kept telling her friends about the academy and we got a lot of people because of her.”

Earlier this year, Ricci, who will be present for the screening, was named Seattle University’s Student Athlete of the Week.

“That and the book and documentary brings the fire back to life in me,” Hess said. “Like in the documentary, I want all my rowers to tell their story. I want them to be the Boys and Girls of 2036. I want them to stand up and say that this is their rowing story.”

A free screening of Margaret Grossi’s documentary “Boys of ‘36” will be presented through a partnership between the Park City Rowing Academy, the Park City Film Series and the Park City Summit County Arts Council at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium on Sunday, July 31, at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

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