Watertown Daily Times | Organizers gear up for 56th annual Canton Canoe Weekend

CANTON — A new major sponsor and the return of a classic paddling route will highlight the long-standing canoeing traditions along the Grasse River. Canton Canoe Weekend and the 56th annual Rushton Memorial Races will be held May 6 and 7 and this year, a partnership with St. Lawrence Health System will play a key role in the fun.

“We are pretty happy to be working with them. They came in as a local sponsor and I think it is a pretty good fit,” said Gene K. Newman, co-director of Canton Canoe Weekend. “What they are trying to promote is fitness and I think we are both on the same page and I hope it will continue to be a good partnership for the future.”

David B. Acker, FACHE president and CEO of St. Lawrence Health System, spoke to the inclusivity of the event and its health implications as reasons for supporting the paddlers.

“Canoeing is a healthy activity the whole family can do,” he said. “With the international level racers coming here, the event promises to benefit Canton, one of our home towns.”

The event will kick off on Friday afternoon, May 5, with the Rushton Tour, a traditional race route that pays tribute to the origins of the paddling festivities and named for J. Henry Rushton, a world renowned boat builder who made his home in Canton and once housed his boat shop on Riverside Drive.

Mr. Newman said the kickoff event will begin at the Pyrites boat launch and paddlers can begin anytime between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Mr. Newman said the original races began at the Pyrites boat launch, which has been revamped recently by the town to make it more user friendly.

“The town did a really nice job rebuilding it,” he noted. “It has handicap access and is a good opportunity for us.”

The cost to participate is $15 and paddlers can register either in Pyrites or at Taylor Park.

The modern Rushton Races begin with recreational races at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. These races range from three to eight miles and are an opportunity for recreational paddlers to try out their skills and have a good time competing against other paddlers without competing against more experienced paddlers, according to organizer Mary Kelly.

The recreational theme continues on Sunday afternoon with team relay races for recreational paddlers with teams consisting of four to six paddlers.

Professionally, Canton Canoe Weekend runs the C-1 Pro World Championship sponsored by St. Lawrence Health Systems beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“This is an opportunity for paddlers and non-paddlers alike to see some of the best international competitors from across North America,” Ms. Kelly said in a release.

Last year’s champions were Trevor Lefevre and Rebecca Davis. Mr. Lefevre is the first champion from New York state. According to Ms. Kelly, top competitors for the men in this race include Ben Schlimmer of New York, with Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais from Quebec, Andy Triebold and Mike Davis from…

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