CINCINNATI -- It's been billed as one of the largest paddling celebrations in the country, and it's happening right here in the Tri-State.
The 16th annual Ohio River Paddlefest, presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare, kicks off Saturday at the Schmidt Recreation Center (2944 Humbert Ave.).
Recognized by the American Canoe Association as the largest paddling event in the country, Paddlefest draws more than 2,000 people from more than 20 states who paddle 9 miles on the Ohio River to celebrate the river's beauty and value.
Paddlefest benefits Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, which works in 20 inner city high schools in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to get teens out into nature to paddle, fish, hike, bike, climb and camp year-round.
Schedule of activities:
Friday, Aug. 4
4 to 9 p.m. -- "Paddler and Sponsor's Party for a Cause" at the Schmidt Recreation Complex. Paddlers can complete their registrations, drop off canoes and kayaks, enjoy food trucks, craft beer, a gear swap and raffle, and live music by The Mondays and Marsha Brady. Overnight camping will also be available at $15 per vehicle. New this year to the Friday night festivities is a Dragon SUP Race, sponsored by Red Paddle Company. Teams of four paddle together on a 22-foot stand-up paddle board in head-to-head races on a quarter-mile course.
Saturday, Aug. 5
7-8:30 a.m. - Boats Launch: Paddlefest gets under way as 1,400+ canoes and kayaks travel 9 miles from the start at the Schmidt Recreation Complex to the finish line at Gilday Riverside Park, 4 miles downstream from Paul Brown Stadium. The U.S. Coast Guard will close the Ohio River to commercial and powerboat traffic from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
7:15 a.m. - SUP Race Start: Sixth Annual 4.2-mile "Central Coast SUP 4 the Cup" stand-up paddle board race, the largest SUP race in the Midwest. SUP racers start at Schmidt and finish at Covington Landing.
8-10:30 a.m. - Half Way Celebration: Hosted by the City of Covington at Covington Landing with live music, refreshments and exhibits. Paddlers will also be invited to take a half-mile tour of the Mill Creek on their way downstream to the finish line.
10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - Finish Line Festival: The Finish Line Festival at Cincinnati Recreation Commission's Gilday Riverside Park (3540 Southside Ave.) features live music, food trucks, craft beer, SUP racer awards and exhibits. Shuttle buses will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to return paddlers to their vehicles.
"When we talk about supporting the health and wellness of our community, it means more than eating right and taking care of your body," said Bruno Giacomuzzi, senior vice president and chief operating officer at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. "It means staying active, getting exercise and being outdoors. We are fortunate to have this wonderful event right in our backyard."
Paddlefest 2017 benefits Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati (OAC), a local 501(c)3 organization. Registration fees from Paddlefest enables OAC to provide over 2,500 outdoor adventures on weekends throughout the school year to underserved inner-city high school students attending 15 Cincinnati Public Schools plus Bellevue, Covington, Dayton, Ludlow, and Newport high schools in Northern Kentucky.
"Proceeds from this amazing event help us fulfill our mission of getting more urban teens out into nature for healthy outdoor recreation, education, and conservation opportunities at no expense to participants," said Denny McFadden, founder and executive director of OAC.
Last year's Paddlefest raised $70,000 for OAC, which amounted to one-third of its entire operating budget for the year.
Find more information at the website here.