On the heels of their 1976 victory to save the New River from being impounded, a local conservation group teamed with 4H to promote the first canoe race in 1981. It’s been going strong ever since.
“A group of us got together in ‘81; we were all young then! We threw together that first race, and it’s carried on now for 30 years,” said Nancy Shannon, one of the event coordinators.
Designed to benefit Ashe County 4H programs and scholarships, the race usually draws a large crowd.
“We’re expecting 80-100 entrants this year, and we think we’ll hit that fairly easy,” said Jennifer Miller, another of the race coordinators, at Saturday’s race. “We start registering and slipping boats in the water starting at 9 a.m., and continue to stagger racers out through 1:30.”
The five mile course which starts at Zaloo’s Canoes and ends at the Wagoner Access at New River State Park is long enough for paddlers to enjoy, but short enough for multiple times down the river.
“One entry fee lets racers enter multiple classes, and we normally have quite a few people take advantage of that. They’ll go down early in the morning, get brought back, and go down again in the early afternoon,” said Miller.
The race has a number of competitors that return year after year, but it’s also drawn entrants the world over including California, Belize, and Finland.
“The race is a blast; it’s a nobrainer why this thing has continued for 30 years,” said Shannon.