CANTON — Typically, when the Canton Canoe Weekend rolls around, race director Gene K. Newman is looking for crowds. This year, the weekend was designed to keep crowds at a minimum.
After the 2020 races were canceled during to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 races were being run under virus safety protocols.
The professionals and serious amateurs raced twice Saturday, Mr. Newman said, so that out-of-town racers wouldn’t necessarily have to stay overnight, and so the entrants were not mixed with the recreational racers.
The Rushton Recreational races of 1, 3, 5 and 8 miles will be held today.
The pro course was shortened to 8 miles, partly due to the compressed time frame and partly due to the Grasse and Little rivers running particularly high, Mr. Newman said.
Of the 90 paddlers expected to race over the weekend, 23 were entered in the pro races. The Canoe Weekend usually draws 40 or more professional-class paddlers, but the closed Canadian border is keeping many of the regular entrants away this year.
“The Canadians can’t come and they are a pretty important contingent in the canoe racing scene,” Mr. Newman said.
That’s not to say people didn’t come from afar for Canoe Weekend.
Mike Davis of Homer, Mich., came in first with a time of 1:12:06 in the first 8 mile race of the day.
Mr. Newman credited a good committee and a good group of volunteers for the smooth running of the event.
Flexibility has been key, she added.
“We made changes this morning,” Mr. Newman said Saturday.
The 2020 Canoe Weekend was one of the first events to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic last year. Those races would have been the 59th in the series. Many of the sponsors from last year let their money roll over to support the 2021 weekend, Mr. Newman said.
“We get lots of support from the town,” Mr. Newman said.
Total prize money for the pro racers is about $2,500, Mr. Newman said, split up over many categories. Race winners get about $300.