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Article updated: 5/11/2013 7:06 PM

Fox River canoe race remains afloat amid challenges

By Dave Heun

The Mid-American Canoe Race used to be a 17-mile jaunt on the Fox River, from South Elgin to Aurora. That was the route for more than 30 years.

But work on the Main Street Bridge, and the portage stairs near the St. Charles Municipal Center that contestants used to walk their canoes around the dam, shortened the route in the early 1990s. Since then, it has started in Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles and ended in Aurora.

Reader Gregg Knipp of St. Charles is convinced the canoe race would return to its glory days of competitive racers, numerous spectators and a full slate of 1,000 entrants if it went back to the original starting point.

"I would think that if the race were restored back to its former glory, there could still be a St. Charles start point for people (families and the less hard-core racers) who wanted to paddle a shorter distance," Knipp said in an email.

Actually, since 2009, the race organizers have offered two distances for participants -- a 10-mile course from St. Charles to Aurora, and a 6-mile excursion beginning in Batavia. Those paddling from St. Charles in this year's June 2 event will start at 9 a.m., and those heading out from Batavia will start at 10:30 a.m.

Avoiding the St. Charles portage has increased safety for the race, said Jeff Long, a Fox Valley Park District spokesman.

"While there are still a lot of die-hards who pine for the old days and longer race, the event in that form basically ran from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.," Long said. "People just don't have that kind of time these days, with all the travel sports and clubs.

"I think people appreciate being able to do the event and still have time left in their day for other activities."

Long confirmed the race consistently closed registration at 1,000 canoes in the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, but fell off to as few as 300 in the early 2000s. "We've built that back up, and our goal this year is 500 canoes," Long said.

Rain Man cometh:

He missed the huge rain last month, but it was nice to see the "Rain Man" statue back in his place on the Third Street plaza near the Geneva train station last week. He'd been gone for a long time, getting his umbrella repaired after vandals broke it off last July.

Banking on help:

Fifth Third Bank stepped to the plate with its own version of flood relief last week, treating families affected by the April flood to a night at a Cougars game. The bank topped that off with a donation of 53,000 meals to the Northern Illinois Food Bank to help local families in need. By any measure, it's a great gesture to the local communities.

Green-thumb heaven:

Planter's Palette in Winfield has long been a favorite spot for area gardeners. Now, those of us in the Tri-Cities will find the popular business in our own backyard, as it expands to include a location at the old Fifth Avenue Flowers location across from Aldi on Main Street, west of Randall, in St. Charles.

My wife, who has the green thumb in our house, sounds pretty excited about the possibilities this Planter's can bring to the area.

A gaping retail hole:

Another challenge in downtown St. Charles has reared its head for city officials and the Downtown Partnership.

The Vertical Drop closed its doors last week at the key retail location on the corner of Third and Main streets.

The 116 W. Main St. location housed Colson's clothing store from the early 1900s to 1992, overcoming a flood in 1954 and a fire in 1957 that resulted in rebuilding. After Colson's closed its doors, Vertical Drop moved in and has called the place its home for ski equipment in the winter and outdoor furniture in the summer since 1992.

With the First Street redevelopment still needing plenty of attention, it's a hard pill to swallow to have the Vertical Drop location suddenly empty.

It has a similar feel to Merra-Lee being empty on Geneva's key State and Third streets corner.

Share the playground:

When the Geneva Park District replaces playground equipment at its parks, kids in another part of the world benefit.

The district replaces equipment about every 15 years to comply with playground regulations. It's a good thing that it has a recycling arrangement with Kids Around the World Inc., which places the equipment in places where kids might not otherwise play in a park.

The district noted that a playground from Deerpath Park was refurbished and relocated to a school in Maun Botswana, Africa.

Mom rules on this:

A national survey tells us something that is not entirely surprising. If given a choice, we'd prefer to have our aging mothers move in with us, rather than dear old Dad.

The Visiting Angels caregiver organization conducted a survey that reveals 70 percent of adult children don't want their parents moving in with them, but if push came to shove, 67 percent would prefer to take in Mom.

And that pretty much sums it up: The survey respondents say Dad has worse hygiene, is lazier, is more likely to say inappropriate things and wants to control the TV remote. That's a recipe for disaster.

The moms win this one, so Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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