By: Lisa Johnson
The 4th annual Red River fest and the revitalization of the historic Red River Canoe Race was held on Saturday, May 15, in partnership between Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Friends of Red River, Powell County tourism and fiscal court, Powell County Lions Club, and Explore Kentucky/Waterman series. This year looked some different than what you could expect to find at this traditional celebration of the Red River Gorge in held in previous years. Despite these odds, the event was an overall success and met capacity as per COVID restrictions. The revival of the historic Red River canoe race included 31 participants and 27 boats from all over the US.
The 29-mile race, starting at Copperas Creek, ended at Powell County Lions Club Park. The first-place tandem winners from Wisconsin completed the race in 4 hours and 45 units. The second-fastest time for a single was former Olympic canoe racer, Bruce Barton of Minnesota, at 4 hours 52 minutes. The third canoe to finish was the woman’s tandem pair finishing at 4 hours 55 minutes. Local favorites Chris Halsey and Brian Wade of Powell County took 2nd in man’s tandem canoe and 14th overall. The seven-mile scenic wild river float fest had 66 participants overall. Laura Gregory with the Kentucky Waterways Alliance offered her personal gratitude to all the organizations and individuals who helped make the event a great success, noting it would have been impossible without the support and assistance of everyone involved to make the events possible.
All who were involved were thrilled to witness the return of this traditional celebration of the gorge area, especially the largest event of the day, the Red River Canoe Race, after a nearly forty year hiatus. The initial event was hosted in 1967 and ended in the 1980’s. The most recent 2021 return of the event included the same course as the previous event, inviting participants to venture out on an unforgettable 21+ mile journey through the Red River Gorge and enjoy one of Kentucky’s most popular and naturally gorgeous areas.