WAGRAM —Warm weather and clear skies welcomed competitors and visitors to Saturday’s Chalk Banks Challenge and River Festival at the Lumber River State Park.
More than 450 people participated in events that included a 5k race, tandem canoe and kayak races and homemade raft race.
“As always, the launch of the rafts was the highlight of the day. You can always tell, as soon as they get in the water, which are going to contend, and which are going to struggle,” said Cory Hughes, Scotland County Tourism Development Authority executive director, and Chalk Banks Challenge planning committee board member.
The event is in its seventh year.
The homemade raft race had seven adult teams and two youth teams participate in a challenge to race two miles, but also to keep rafts from filling with water.
The winner of the raft race was “Dragon Behind,” which was captained by Johnny Mears of Laurinburg. The winning vessel was made from duck tape and foam pool noodles with a dragon head on its bow.
“We are starting to fill up with water,” Mears could be heard saying at the race’s mid-point, however, he was able to not only beat the competition, but also his leaky boat.
Coming in second was “Oodles of Noodles,” captained by Brent Spivey of St. Paul’s, and finishing in third place was “River Hammock,” captained by Leslie Whitlock of Gibson.
In the youth division, the winner of the raft race was “Blue Bacon,” which was operated by Boy Scout Troop 420.
The team, “Make the River Great Again,” despite not winning the race, caught the attention of all that saw their raft. Carl Townsend and Chris Singletary decided to make not only a raft, but a political statement by adding a President Donald Trump mannequin to the front of their plastic barrel boat.
“We don’t even know if the raft is getting in the water,” said Townsend, after realizing his team forgot life jackets minutes before the start of the race.
The two were able to locate life jackets with the help of park rangers and start the race only a few minutes behind the pack, and unlike the general election, the team and Trump were unable to overcome their underdog status.
“This year we had some great rafts. Very creative and, all in all, pretty sturdy,” Hughes said.
The 5k race had five winners, Bryce Miller in the under 12 division, Carol Conroy in the women’s 35-54-year-old age group, Daniel Neuffer for the 55-year-old and over division, Joel Lucas for the men’s 19-34-year-old division, and David Carmichael in the men’s 35-54-year-old division.
The Youth Cross Country Race had a brother and sister, Bryce and Ella Miller sweep the under 12-years-old competition bringing home the gold medal in both the boy’s and girl’s divisions.
The tandem canoe race was won by William and River McDuffie of Robbins. The men’s longboard race was won by Tony Rouse.
The recreational kayak race was one by Ross Peele of Robbins for the men’s division, and river McDuffie in the women’s division.
For those not involved in the races, bouncy houses, a reptile exhibit, and concessions were set up to entertain, as well as the Laurinburg band, Last Time Around.
“My favorite part of the day was the race and animals,” said Jalen Harris, who finished second in the under 12-years-old 5k race.”
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171