Vessels of all sorts race down Savannah River

As modern-day Huckleberry Finns raced their rafts down the Savannah River on Saturday, Betty Mercer was watching.

"I've always wanted to see something like this," she said of the second annual Paddlefest. "So this year I made up my mind to get up early, get a good view and watch."

The Hephzibah resident also brought along her great-grandchildren, Alexia Hatton, 8, and Nashaun Daguerre, 4.

They were among about 50 people who had gathered at Boeckh Park in North Augusta on Saturday morning to watch the start of the homemade rafts race.

This year's Paddlefest also included a canoe and kayak race that began at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

Mrs. Mercer and other spectators were on hand at the Boat House on Riverfront Drive to cheer the participants as they crossed the finish line.

The main goal of the event was to show people how valuable the river is to the area, said Tonya Bonitatibus, the development director for Savannah Riverkeepers, which sponsored the event.

"We want people to use the river and have fun doing it," she said. "The best way for them to understand how valuable it is to the area is to get them out on the water with fun activities like this one."

More than 100 people participated, with nearly half competing in the homemade raft race, Ms. Bonitatibus said.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.