By Thomas Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charles City riverfront was full of fun and games Saturday, June 17 with the Whitewater Weekend and BBQ Challenge.
The Whitewater Weekend brought people from as far as Chicago and Wisconsin to the first whitewater course in Iowa. This is the 6th annual Whitewater Challenge.
A variety of competitions in kayaking and SUP saw people of all ages and experiences competing on the Cedar River in men’s and women’s competitions.
SUPs are stand-up paddleboards that look like surf board. Some are inflatable.
Mike Koenig, No. 28, from Valders, Wis., took part in the SUP race through the rapids. During the competition, Koenig took a break from rowing to do a headstand on his board.
Crawdaddy Outdoors gave competitors and anyone else who asked a chance to try out one of their kayaks on the Cedar River, rowing to Brantingham Bridge and back.
Kris Perreault and his family, from Mount Vernon, took part in almost every competition. Perreault’s team sported the Badfish logo on some of their gear. Kris Perreault’s daughter, Amara, was the youngest competitor at 9 years old.
Perreault said he first got interested in kayaking and being on the water from competitor and fellow Badfish Hannah (Ray) Childs.
Childs; Marty Coldert, one of the safety workers; Ty Graham, developer of the whitewater course; and Carl Neubauer, the judge for several events, took Perreault and his family under their wings and taught them how to kayak and SUP.
This was the second year at the whitewater event for Perreault and his son, Klayten. It was the first season for Perreault’s wife, Emily.
“We consider this our home park, when we get to come and play on it,” Perreault said.
If they could they would participate in every event, he said.
“My favorite (part) is the youth program they’re trying push out here,” he said. “It gives us a chance as a family to get our kids out here and actually let them see what this is like, and get them outside instead of watching TV.
Neubauer, one of the judges, was dressed in a ripped shirt with a red cross on it and wore a blonde mullet wig so competitors and others would see him at the Whitewater Challenge.
Neubauer has been kayaking since his father first put him in one at the age of 2, he said.
“I’ve seen the sport grow into something beautiful,” Neubauer said. “I dreamed of this as a young kid.”
Neubauer has traveled to whitewater parks throughout his adult life and has always wanted to live close to one, he said.
Neubauer is from Rock Falls, Ill., and has made his way in several different directions since then, and is currently living in Cedar Rapids.
“Its definitely beautiful to come to the Midwest and have something like this,” Neubauer said. “This compares to something out West.”
Graham, from Cedar Falls, the course developer who also helped get Perreault involved in whitewater, was also present at the event Saturday.
“I’m with a company (Riverwise Engineering) that does dam mitigation, and builds whitewater parks,” Graham said.
He said he finds whitewater courses and events have a real positive fun vibe to them.
“I wanted that in my state,” Graham said. “This my dream, that I had 17 years ago, now we’re seeing it.”
Graham compared his wait and work on the whitewater course to planting a fruit tree.
“You’ve got to wait a couple years until they flower and then they fruit,” Graham said. “Here we are, this is the fruit from a lot of work. Not just me and my group, but Charles City and a lot of other boaters.”
There were several sponsors of the event, including Rapid End Outfitters, that donated the inner tubes for an intermission tube race.
“This is the first time the whitewater committee decided to go without the cardboard race, and go with an inner tube race instead,” said Rapid End Outfitters owner Randy Wiltse.
Comet Abroad had s booth selling bottled water and raising funds for a Charles City High School trip to Machu Picchu, a mountain in Peru in two years. Teacher Rodd Pittman was in charge of the booth.
“Every two years I take a group of high school students to a different country,” Pittman said. “Last spring break we did Costa Rica.”
Pittman hopes to take his group to the Andes Mountains and Sacred Valley, along with the visit to Machu Picchu.
“Look for us throughout the summer doing different activites to help raise more money,” he said.
At the end of the event winners for each event were awarded medals for first, second and third place.
FIRST PLACE WINNERS
Open play boat men competition — Jeff Barden.
Open play boat women competition — Jenny Artly.
Open Class long boat men competition — Jeff Barden.
Open Class long boat women competition — Hannah Childs.
Youth Boater competition — Ethan Lunning.
Youth rodeo competition — Ethan Lunning.
Beginner male rodeo competition — Austin Gold.
Beginner female rodeo competition — Paige Olson.
Advanced male rodeo competition — Mike Conan.
Cookie race — Emily Perreault and Hannah Childs.
SUP cross male competition — Mike Koenig.
SUP cross youth competition — Klayten Perreault.
Male SUP surf competition — Kris Perreault.
Female SUP surf competition — Hannah Childs.
Youth SUP surf competition — Klayten Perreault and Amara Perreault.
After the awards for placing were given out, a drawing was held for various items including a kayak worth over a thousand dollars.
“With some of our sponsorships we were able to gather these prizes,” said Charles City Chamber of Commerce Community Development Marketing and Tourism Coordinator Ginger Williams.
Over 40 people participated in the White Water Challenge.
“Its a beautiful park to have in the back yard,” Neubauer said.