The non-profit Coal River Group hosted a party for over 600 paddlers on the Coal Rivers, June 23, 2013. Over six hundred people showed up and brought over 400 kayaks, canoes and even a new paddle board.
“The overwhelming response to our river restoration efforts is growing each year”, says Kris Radford, President of the CRG. “We are pleased and amazed at the number of out-of-state paddlers who plan months in advance to participate in our huge community float”, she says.
“Huge is a good way to describe the event. This year over 600 classy orange t-shirts were gobbled up by visitors and participants.” Radford notes, “Our Tour De Coal paddler in the sunlight design just gets more popular. The demand for the TDC shirts has grown so big that we now sell them at our River Center on a year-round basis. Over 1,000 bottles of water were consumed during the event and the paddlers carried off nearly all the empties as the left the area,” she adds.
“The number of volunteers needed to supervise and coordinate the safety of the paddlers has also grown,” says Radford. “This year we produced over 100 lime green t-shirts that carry the coveted word, ‘CREW’ for volunteers on the backs of the shirts. Those shirts are all gone and in every case we see them on people’s backs everywhere we go. Volunteers are the key to our success,” says Radford. “Without the vast number of volunteers we simply could not host such a large and complicated 12-mile paddle trip for 600 people.”
The visitors to the region are impressive. California, New York, the Carolinas, Wisconsin and many other faraway places, including Nepal, were represented by the paddlers. Many people with family still in West Virginia are scheduling visits back home to coincide with the annual event and in many instances have family reunions the weekend of the Tour de Coal.
“Five shuttle buses provided by local churches including Maranantha, St. Paul’s Baptist, St. Mark’s Episcopal and First Baptist, and the Mardi Gras Resort helped to shuttle the visitors from downtown St. Albans parking sites 6 miles upstream to the Meadowood Park launch site.” “It is a logistical challenge,’ reports Radford, ‘but with our seasoned volunteers we manage the complicated transit and launch of over 400 boats very well. This year we successfully helped to launch all 400 boats in a short 45 minute time span and we did it safely,” she adds.
“The economic payoff for St. Albans and local merchants is wonderful plus also,” says, Radford. “Local store owners are gearing up well in advance for the event. Tudor’s on West Main Street near St. Albans proudly posted a large ‘WELCOME TOUR DE COAL PADDLERS’ sign on their billboard. Local small stores provided provisions and food for the hungry and thirsty paddlers and local hotels enjoyed the increased number of overnight guests.”
The three event, ROCK, PADDLE AND ROLL weekend, also brought new visitors to the River Center located in the Kanawha County Park and Recreation Commission’s Meadowood Park, located in Tornado, WV. The Pre-Tour registration event provided free paddling instructions to over 40 young people and allowed 100 people to register for the event without long lines. Coal River Group’s first ‘Cruise In’ on Sunday sponsored by The Klassy Kruzers Car Club brought over 40 cars and 100 people for the Sunday Antique Boat and Car show.
Radford closed by saying, “Above all, we could not continue to be as successful as we are if it weren’t for our major sponsors, Moses Ford of St. Albans, City National Bank and Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, who give us the seed money each year to start the event.” “They have been with us a long time and we appreciate their continued support of the Tour de Coal and the Coal River Group.”