Experience the Fox River with the Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race
The Fox River is a lifetime friend. Similarly, I've enjoyed the same long-term relationship with the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race.
We go way back … to boyhood days with my brothers and friends, fishing along the river's banks, swimming when it was hot (don't tell Mom) and watching canoeists glide in the brisk current, wishing it was us.
Every year, on the first Sunday in June, we headed for the river on our bikes to watch hundreds and hundreds of paddlers in the Mid-Am. As we got older, my friends and I became those very paddlers we once idolized from the shoreline.
Started in 1962, the Mid-Am's tradition is every bit as vibrant today. On June 5, the 55th Mid-Am will welcome paddlers of all ages and abilities -- folks from all walks of life, taking part in this transcendent event and enjoying time together, on the water and off.
From first-timers to 30-year veterans, the Mid-Am strikes a balance between easygoing recreation and hard-core competition. With 20 different divisions -- 11 for canoes, 8 for kayaks and an open (noncompetitive) division -- there's a fit for everybody, and awards to the top three boats in every division.
The Mid-Am offers two race lengths, with a 10-mile course starting in St. Charles and a 6-mile race beginning in Batavia. Free shuttles run regularly between both start lines and the finish area. Both routes finish at the Illinois Avenue Bridge with a riverside celebration and lunch party at beautiful McCullough Park.
Early heats starting in St. Charles are "racers-only" to give the most competitive paddlers free run of the course and avoid potential crowding in tight spots and portages. Those who are less experienced at being on the river -- novice paddlers and young families -- are able to start later and travel at a more leisurely pace.
It's easier than ever to experience a memorable trip down the Fox River in the company of like-minded paddlers. And the perks are pretty nice, too -- commemorative T-shirt, goody bag, grilled lunch (hot dog or burger), shuttle bus transportation and dozens of post-race prize drawings.
You don't even need to own a boat or worry about transporting a borrowed one -- the Mid-Am offers discounted canoe and kayak rental packages.
It's simple, really: 1. Register online (before June 1) and choose the canoe or kayak rental package; 2. Show up on race day at your starting site, where your rental boat is waiting for you; 3. Enjoy a glorious paddle down the Fox River; 4. Leave your boat at the finish line to enjoy the post-race lunch party and awards ceremony.
More than 200 canoes and 100 kayaks are available for rent, so bring friends and family -- there's a boat for everybody.
Afterward, the riverside finish area at McCullough Park is a festival of fun, food, music, beer and games. Friends, family and spectators are welcome to join the festivities. Food vendors will have subs, popcorn, frozen yogurt and other tasty menu items, and plenty of booths to browse with local businesses joining the celebration.
There's fun along the route as well -- particularly at the State Street Bridge, where the North Aurora Lions Club sets up shop and turns the portage into a party. They'll be announcing the names of paddlers -- Olympic style -- one of the many highlights along the way.
Go ahead, enjoy the celebrity treatment, as fans line the banks in St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora, waving and cheering.
Good times like these make for a great event, one that celebrates a shared, recreational resource -- the Fox River -- and the enjoyment it provides.
• Jeff Long (email@example.com) is the Public Affairs and Communications Manager for the Fox Valley Park District. To register for the Mid-Am, visit www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org
If you goWhat: The 55th annual Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race
When: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 5
Where: 10-mile race begins at Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles; 6-mile race begins at Batavia Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Route 25; both races end at McCullough Park in Aurora
Cost: Registration fees are $15-$25; boat rental is $25 to $50