JEFFERSON — For the past 34 years, the New River Canoe Race has been a staple attraction along the New River in Ashe County. This year will be no different with boaters and floaters hitting the river on Saturday, June 4 at Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson.
Friends of High Country State Parks took over organizing the event in 2013 to keep the canoe racing tradition alive.
“It was always organized by the Ashe County Cooperative Extension 4-H program. They helped start the event back in 1981 and used it to fund their summer parks program for all these many years,” said race co-chair Nancy Shannon. “It just got to be too much for them, they are involved in so many other things. I have been involved in the race since the beginning, and when they were looking for a sponsor to take over, I was really bummed that the race might end after 4-H pulled out.”
That’s when the Friends of the High Country State Parks, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit group decided to step up to the plate and keep the race going.
“The focus of our group is to raise funds for these four state parks in the High Country so the rangers can have a little discretionary room in their budget to add programs or things they can’t do with their limited budget,” said Shannon.
The entry fee is only $10 and those planning to race more than once can do it again for an addition $5 per try. The first 200 people to register will also receive a t-shirt and an opportunity to win a door prize.
Following the race, an awards ceremony will take place at 3 p.m.
Boaters can start their race between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Boats with children have to start no later than 1 p.m.
The race is not a shotgun start, meaning that not everybody has to start the race at exactly the same time. Times will be kept for each entry throughout the day with the fastest winners in different experience levels being announced during the award ceremony.
The race is about five miles and is generally a very smooth and easy paddle down one of the most beautiful and picturesque rivers in the country.
This year, the group hopes that more local canoers and kayakers decide to come take part in the event.
“People from different parts of the state come back year after year, we have such a big following from outside the region, but some people in Ashe County have never heard of it,” said Shannon.
If a family decides they want to take the trip down the river together, there are options for them as well.
“The family float is probably the category we are trying to showcase more than anything this year. It started about six years ago and it has really started gaining traction. It’s a favorite activity for the families,” Shannon said.
The cost for a family float is $25.
While the race brings some friendly competition to the river side, it’s really just a small part of everything that goes on during the annual event. There will be music by Scot Pope and Nan Zoppi, ZyZy Taco Truck, free cookies from Stick Boy Bread Company in Boone (while they last), raffle ticket prizes as well as free use of tubes from New River State Park between noon and 3 p.m.
Shannon wanted to extend a special thank you to the sponsors for the 2016 event: thank you to all of our 2016 Race Sponsors which include: Farmers Rental, Footsloggers, Mast Store, Zaloos Canoes, Boondocks, Boone Ford, Stick Boy Bakery, Bare Essentials Natural Market, Skyline/Skybest, River House Inn, Go Postal-West Jefferson, MYO Massage, RaysWeather.com, ToddsCalendar.com, Diane Littlefield, Bob White and Dr. Patricia Beaver.
LifeStore Bank, Original Only Gallery, artists Debra Speas and Chris Sink and Hotel Tavern also gave a helping hand to make this event possible.
For more information, you can check out the event on Facebook by searching “New River Canoe Race Sponsored by Friends of High Country State Parks,” visit their website at www.friendsofhcsp.weebly.com or call Nancy Shannon at 336-877-5550.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87