This article has been edited to reflect the updated results.
SOUTH STORMONT & SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – The 47th Raisin River Canoe Race brought a renewed sense of spring excitement to towns across the region on Sunday, April 14, with 350 ambitious individuals paddling down the river, and even more locals spectating.
In places along the river like Martintown, families and friends were catching up with each other by the dozens. The smell of poutine wafted through the air from the Martintown Trading Post, and many enjoyed taking in local sights like the Martintown Grist Mill. Along the river towards Williamstown, swarms occupied bridges, chanting through horns with messages of encouragement. Many others sat around small bonfires. Although weather forecasts called for excessive rain, only a drizzle could be felt in the afternoon, with overcast skies remaining calm throughout the morning.
According to Lisa Van De Ligt, Raisin Region Conservation Authority Communications Specialist , 207 canoes and kayaks hit the water this year, alongside the first ever stand-up paddleboard. Racers departed as early as 10:30 a.m. from St. Andrew’s West, paddling 30 km to Williamstown with a brief portage in Martintown. Each racer was awarded with a medal upon completion of the race.
Many spectators were hoping to see participants try their hand at shooting the Martintown Dam but the area was closed off due to safety concerns.
“The flows were good, about 1,300 cubic ft. per second, which in comparison…is a bit more than last year, but not nearly as high as two years ago,” explained Van De Ligt. “We have a safety committee formed…and every race day, every year, they look at the conditions…usually if the flows are more than 1,000 cubic ft. per second, it’s not safe for them to shoot the dam.”
Organizers Phil Barnes and Lissa Deslandes were happy with the turnout and enjoyed seeing the excitement of participants at the finish line.
Brian Arberry, President of Martintown Grist Mill, was thrilled to see the community come to life in light of the event.
“I just think it’s great the way Martintown opens up, like the Grand Hotel, the restaurants have specials on, the Trading Post is open. You know, it’s really neat. If you look around, everyone is having a good time,” said Arberry. “When you’re standing here you’ll see them coming up the sidewalk. They’re having a good time, the participants, so that’s always important too.”
For locals like Mike Belmore and Tracy MacDonald, the race is an unmissable tradition.
“I grew up on the river so I’ve been watching it every year,” said Belmore, who participated in the race twice. “It’s longer than I think everyone realizes…my son and I were talking about going in next year. He may not be old enough this year, but we were thinking about it.”
“You know the people going by…being from the area. It’s just a great community event,” said MacDonald.
Results showed the top three racers as follows:
First place – Boat #96, Christopher Weber and Pierre Lavictoire at 2 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds.
Second place – Boat #37, Gaetan Plourde and Jeff Brainard at 2 hours, 20 minutes and 6 seconds.
Third place – Boat #166 Claude Roux and Pierre Pinard at 2 hours, 28 minutes and 17 seconds.