September can be an especially busy month for active Mid-Ohio Valley residents, between county fairs, local festivals and countless family-friendly events. This weekend is no different with the fourth annual Parkersburg Paddlefest taking place at Point Park, at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers. This fun-filled three day festival is dedicated to people-powered watercraft with kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards all welcome to participate.
“The whole idea was inspired by cities like Cincinnati, Ohio who have a strong paddle sports community,” explains Thomas Breitmeier. “John Wiseman and Kim Coram put in the footwork to get things started here in Parkersburg with the help of friends and their adventure shop customers, whom they referred to as their ‘shop family.’ Although John and Kim have since moved, the Greater Parkersburg CVB and most of the original volunteers have come together to keep things going.”
Paddlefest weekend officially kicks off with a lighted night paddle on Friday evening up the Little Kanawha River, with the main group paddle taking place Saturday morning and early afternoon. On Sunday, the festival offers a farewell lake paddling excursion on North Bend State Park lake, located about 40 minutes east of Parkersburg. The lake, formed only 17 years ago, has become habitat for what is arguably the largest congregation of Red-headed woodpeckers in the US with a number of standing trees still in the water, making it a scenic and serene way to wrap up the weekend.
“By closing off the river to commercial traffic and having a group of experienced paddlers around, we create a safe environment to learn and experience, which we hopes inspires newcomers to stay with the sport.”
During the main event on Saturday, paddlers have an opportunity to paddle a three-mile stretch of the Ohio River (from Point Park downriver to Blennerhassett Island and back) while commercial traffic is restricted on the Ohio River. “There are people who come to Paddlefest who have never tried paddle sports before,” says Thomas. “By closing off the river to commercial traffic and having a group of experienced paddlers around, we create a safe environment to learn and experience, which we hopes inspires newcomers to stay with the sport.” Safety watercraft will also be on hand to slow private motorized craft passing through, and paddlers need not worry about being run over by a barge.
Thomas, himself a dedicated volunteer, is glad to see that the event has continued to grow. “Last year, attendance was close to double the year before. We keep adding more activities like yoga, temple challenge, and disc golf – the word spreads, and draws more people in.” Paddlefest also conveniently coincides with Downtown PKB’s Downtown Throwdown, their signature craft brew and BBQ event.
Why is Paddlefest such a great event for the Mid-Ohio Valley? “Events like Paddlefest bring people together from across the region and bridge gaps in the community while inspiring a healthy lifestyle,” Thomas says. Paddlers of all ages, abilities, and experience levels can partake in paddling events, while even those who prefer to stick to solid ground will have no shortage of activities to choose from. Head down to Point Park this weekend to experience one of Parkersburg’s favorite new festivals.