Calling all outdoor enthusiasts who love good competition! The Great River Race is back this year in Eden with improvements and excitement.
Sponsored by Get Fit Rockingham, the Eden Chamber of Commerce and the City of Eden, the race features homemade boats, which will race for 1.07 miles on the Dan River from the Klyce Street Landing in Eden to the Leaksville Landing River Access at Hamilton Street. The race, which begins at 9 a.m. Sept. 19, is free and open to anyone. It has been two years since the last race.
“We started in Shiloh near the airport and raced to the NC Wildlife access in Eden (for the race two years ago), and it turned into a seven-hour trip!” said Randy Hunt, the City of Eden’s Main Street manager. “By the time our team got to the end, we didn’t even want to talk about the race; we were exhausted.”
Hunt loved the race concept but knew plans needed to be tweaked a little before having one again. The race course was just too long.
He and the city pursued a Duke Energy Water Resources grant to build a new landing at Klyce Street. It was completed a few months ago, creating the perfect place to launch the Great River Race. (Grant money was also used to replace the Draper Landing, which had washed out.)
By altering the starting point for the competition, Hunt believes this year’s race will be about a two-hour float.
“Of course, if you have a fast boat, you might go quicker,” he said with a chuckle. “I think there will be a lot more entries for this year’s race since it will not take up participants’ whole day.”
The Great River Race challenges teams to use their creativity to build a boat that holds four team members and can make it to the finish line. Boats must be homemade and powered by humans, and all crew members must wear life jackets and remain with the vessel through the race. Parents of minors must sign a waiver. Boats will be judged for ingenuity, aesthetics, costumes and winning the race. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers.
Pegged as a wellness/fitness event, as well as an economic development event, the race is also an opportunity to have fun and enjoy the great outdoors.
“It will be good to be out in nature since we’ve all been locked in our houses” during the coronavirus pandemic, Hunt said. “I hope people see how easy it is to get on and off the rivers and see how much enjoyment can be had on them.”
A free fitness program that promotes health, wellness and fitness by encouraging citizens to be active, especially in the summer months, Get Fit Rockingham is an outgrowth of Get Fit Eden, which started in 2013.
“Get Fit Eden was an initiative that was such a good fit for our community that the program grew to be county-wide,” Hunt said. “With an activity like the Great River Race, which Get Fit is sponsoring, you have to expend energy and think about hydration, and it’s good exercise and exposure to Vitamin D.”
Hunt views the Dan and Smith rivers, which both flow through Eden, as underutilized, and he hopes events such as the Great River Race draw people from within and outside the community to appreciate the many assets of Rockingham County.
“Stats show that people will drive an hour to spend an hour, and we want people to come and enjoy our area, shop, eat and explore,” he said.
While only four team members may race the boats for the Great River Race, the number of team members who help construct them is not limited. Parts from rafts or surfboards may not be used, and all parts must come out of the water at the end of the race.
“We don’t want parts to float to Danville,” Hunt said. “We are also encouraging people to pick up trash along the way.”
For those who would like to watch the race and/or cheer on racing teams, Hunt suggests the Leaksville Landing bridge as a good place for spectators, as well as the start of the new trail head there.
As for his own team and their design for this year’s race, Hunt says his lips are sealed.
For the race two years ago, he and his team built a Flintstone replica boat using wood, PVC, old fabric and 55-gallon barrels, and they won first place.
While Hunt would not reveal details of their entry this year, he said he did learn a valuable lesson from the last time he raced.
“This time, we are trying for speed and comfort over aesthetics,” he said.
“Come out and enjoy a nice, peaceful, outdoorsy feeling in the middle of the city,” Hunt said.