Sara Swanson

51st Annual Canoe and Kayak Race…on one of the crookedest rivers in the world!

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Canoe competitors are lined up and ready to go at the starting line, Fellows Bridge on Sharon Valley Road two years ago.

At noon on Sunday, May 21, the 51st Annual Manchester Canoe/Kayak Race will begin. First held on April 22, 1967, as part of Manchester’s Centennial Celebration, it was moved to the third Sunday in May in 1970 which is now its home. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the first race, the Annual Manchester Canoe/Kayak Race will help kick off the Village’s Sesquicentennial Celebration!

Registration forms are being sent to recent participants, and can also be picked up at Frank’s Place, Ollie’s Pizza & Grinders, Ash Auto, State Farm, Wackers, and Marathon Gas. You can also request a form by emailing organizer Sybil Kolon at Registration is $15 per person and you can reserve a T-shirt, also $15, with your registration. You can also register the day of the race, starting at 10 am.

If racing isn’t your thing but you want to get in on the fun, you can participate by buying a raffle ticket for a Perception Sunrise kayak with a paddle being raffled by organizers as part of the festivities. The kayak is ten feet long, red with black trim, and is perfect for beginners. Raffle tickets are $10 each and only 150 total are available for sale. Raffle tickets are available at Wackers and Ash Auto. The drawing for the kayak will be held at the finish line after the trophies have been awarded. You don’t have to be present to win.

The race starts at Fellows Bridge on Sharon Valley Road, east of Sharon Hollow, and ends in the Village of Manchester, just upstream of the dam at Main Street. The distance is about 3.5 miles. The River Raisin is known as one of the crookedest rivers in the world. The remains of many trees in the river also make this a challenging race. Organizers report that the fastest time recorded is just under 30 minutes and typical times range from 35 to 50 minutes. Kolon stated, “We are looking for a great turnout. It has been a wet spring, so water levels are up. The river cleanup crew will be out to clear major obstacles in the next week or so.”

Organizers are unable to locate statistics for a few years, but available records show the most entries in 2007 with 112 canoes and kayaks. The second largest number entries place was in the year 2000, when there was an even 100. With good weather predicted, 70 to 90 entries are expected this year

The parking lot near the river, now owned by Chris Moyle of Over the Edge/Ollie’s Pizza & Grinders, has been used for finish-line activities for many years, but this is the first year that it belongs to a business open on Sundays, creating a potential conflict. However, Moyle is turning over his parking lot for the day. Kolon states, “Special thanks to Chris for allowing us to use the parking lot for finish line activities. We are fortunate that he is such a strong supporter of our community. The community involvement in this race is what makes it so successful.”

The Manchester Kiwanis Club has sponsored the race since 2003. Prior sponsors were the Recreation Task Force, the Optimists and the Chamber of Commerce, which took over after the Centennial Committee organized the first race. Many individuals over the years have contributed to make this an annual event to remember.

Kolon continued, “Find a partner, or go solo, in a canoe or kayak and head out to enjoy a beautiful stretch of the River Raisin. With 11 classes, you could be a winner. First, second and third place winners in each class receive a trophy. If you aren’t into racing, come out and support your friends and family; there is sure to be someone you know competing. It promises to be another great day.”

Check out the race’s Facebook page here for updates.

Previous canoe race competitors.

Tom Ash, winner of the kayak raffle two years ago!

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