Groups race down Savannah River at Paddlefest

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A man and his dog cruise along the Savannah River. Saturday's Paddlefest featured canoe and kayak races.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
A man and his dog cruise along the Savannah River. Saturday's Paddlefest featured canoe and kayak races.

The raft made of recycled materials was light enough for two men to carry with ease.

Built by Ashley Ball, Greg Dasher and Caleb Scott, it was the last to arrive Saturday at the North Au­gusta boat ramp, where six other groups competing in the homemade raft race put their crafts in the water.

The race was one of several events at the seventh annual Paddlefest, one of the largest fundraisers for the Savannah Riverkeeper.

The Augusta Ad­venture and Activities Group gathered to cheer on members in a raft that contained about a half-dozen paddlers, a tent and a volleyball net.

Group organizer Sharon Math­erson said members watched the event a couple of years ago and thought it looked like fun.

“This year we’re doing the more active part and getting out and having fun,” she said.

The group’s raft lined up next to a raft filled with zombie castaways and an inflatable alligator, and another raft made of duct tape and plastic foam.

When the horn was sounded, the raft steered by Dasher and Scott pulled ahead. Made of pallets, PVC pipe and empty plastic water bottles, the raft worked better than Ball expected.

“I had seen a lot of those big drums that you see on the other (rafts),” she said. “A 55-gallon drum can hold like 400 pounds. Those are really buoyant, it’s just that some of them seem kind of slow.”

Ball wanted to build the raft to represent her company, Recycling Perks, which is working with the city to increase residential recycling. She enlisted the help of her friends Dasher and Scott, who are engineers with E-Z-Go.
The raft came in well ahead of the other competitors.
Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said more than 150 paddlers participated in the canoe and kayak races, which started at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

She said while the turnout was very good, registration numbers were lower than usual, and she attributed it to the later start date. The river’s flooding earlier in the summer caused the event to be postponed.

“It’s definitely less (paddlers) than in years past. I think the date change kind of hurt us on that,” she said.

She said Paddlefest, which includes live music, a silent auction, vendors and a raffle after the races, brings in about $15,000
annually.


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