CINCINNATI — Thousand of people were scheduled to gather Saturday at the Schmidt Boat Ramp in the East End for the15th annual Ohio River Paddlefest.
Under normal circumstances, Paddlefest participants would have rented or brought their own kayaks, canoes, or other paddle-powered craft to collectively take a nine-mile trip down the Ohio River, where a finishers party awaited them.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led event organizers to cancel this year's trip down the river, but they still want participants to hit the water.
"We transformed Paddlefest into a virtual event because we couldn't offer a safe and successful Paddlefest with groups of two thousand people," said Miriam Wise, associate director for operations and advancement for Adventure Crew, the nonprofit that organizes Paddlefest each year. "So, we're inviting people to take their Paddlefest celebration personal and make time to paddle this summer. We're calling it Paddle for a Purpose."
For $25 per adult and $10 per child, participants can sign up for Paddle for a Purpose on the Paddlefest website.
"We're encouraging folks to make the same trip, nine miles either in one paddling adventure or multiple trips to explore a local waterway," Wise said. "It could still be the Ohio if they feel comfortable but they can also go to a local river like the Little Miami or the Licking or even a lake to get in their miles with friends and family."
Participants also are encouraged to share their paddling experiences on Paddlefest's website in words and pictures.
"If you're very ambitious, you can become a 'Power Paddler' and start a fundraiser and challenge yourself this summer to complete the most miles or the most waterways and that's a free thing to do," Wise said. "After you register you can say 'Hey, I'm going to try and paddle a hundred miles.'"
Paddle for a Purpose, like Paddlefest, is Adventure Crew's primary fundraiser for the year. Proceeds help pay for the Cincinnati-based non-profit's mission to provide outdoor adventure experiences to school-age children who live in the city.
"Kids can learn to kayak, mountain bike, they get to go hiking and rock climbing and we cover all of the adventure costs," Wise said. "We are also contributing five dollars from every registration and fifteen percent Power Paddle fundraisers to the Freestore FoodBank because we realize the most immediate need of our students is most likely food and security.”
People will have from Saturday to Aug. 22 to log their nine miles or reach a stated "Power Paddler" stretch-goal. Sign up for Paddle for a Purpose will be open through Aug. 21.
"You can kind of customize Paddle for a Purpose to your interests and your summer and even invite friends from across the country," Wise said. "You don't have to be in the same place to paddle for a purpose."
For more information, visit www.ohioriverpaddlefest.org.