WAGRAM — It’s almost the time when kayak and canoe fans take to the Lumber River to test themselves and enjoy a local nature preserve.
The 2018 Chalk Banks Challenge will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Chalk Banks access of the Lumber River State Park.
The annual event is a way to enjoy the benefits of the local state park and warm weather at the end of a long winter, organizers say.
“We believe this state park is a really great place for families to go and be outside and walk the trails,” said Whit Gibson one of the organizers of the event. “It’s a great little park and not many people know it exists.”
The event is a spin-off of an river regatta held on the Riverton Beach down river from where the park sits. In the 1980s locals would gather and hold canoe and raft races and spend the day on the river enjoying fellowship and fun.
In 2011, when organizers began to brainstorm ideas for an occasion to promote the State Park, they had to choose the right event and right time according to Gibson.
“The focus was to bring people to the state park and we knew that a raft race would be that unique event,” Gibson said. “We had to choose a time and we chose a day between Mother’s Day and when kids were still in school and families would not be out of town on vacation and when the water would not be too cold.”
That first year saw about 250 people. Last year, the number was up to 600.
The water-based portion of the day’s activities will include canoe and kayak races as well as a homemade raft competition. The entry fees for the water races is $10.
Several fire departments are competing in the homemade raft regatta. The Laurel Hill Fire Department has participated in the event in past years and had so much fun they built four rafts for the 2018 race, according to Chief Clyde Locklear.
“We built them ourselves and paid out of pocket for the material, and they didn’t cost much to make,” Locklear said. “I hope a lot of the other departments will enter too. I can’t say I want them to finish ahead of us, but I want them to make rafts and enter.”
Gibson said the raft race is always good fun getting to see people’s creations and whether they will float let alone finish the competition.
“We have a lot of Boy Scouts who enter. It’s a lot of fun because Boy Scouts are supposed to be prepared and some of them show up in boats that won’t even make the first turn,” he said.
Gibson said that stretch of river is a good one for beginners because it only runs at two MPH unless there has been a heavy rain.
The event involves more than just water activities. There will be foot races through the park’s trails. The 5K trail run is for age groups from under 12 to over 55 years old. The entry fee is $25. For the bravest runners, there will be a men’s high heeled sprint race as well.
New this year is the men’s high heel foot race. Men who enter will be issued a pair of high heels and required to complete a short course. Scotland county Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Graham said watching the men try to navigate the course without turning an ankle or falling over is quite a spectacle.
“It’s a fun way to get the dads involved. It’s pretty funny if you have a daughter or wife. It’s a quick race to get everybody laughing and enjoying themselves and having a good day,” Graham said. “We did it at Britt Park in Lumberton when I was there. It was a lot of fun a lot of ankles being turned, a lot of people falling down, a lot of excitement.”
The winner of the race will get a $50 gift certificate to Jerry’s Deli provided by the Tourism Development Association.
Graham said he doesn’t know if it gives men a better appreciation for what women go through when wearing high heels.
“It’s hard to get an appreciation when you’re strapping up that shoe, curling your toes and praying you don’t break an ankle,” he said humorously.
Events are scheduled as follows:
8 – 10:30a.m. — Event registration
9:30 – 5K Trail run − entry fee required
10 a.m. – Festival opening ceremonies
10:15 a.m. – Recreational tandem canoe – 2 mile race
10:30 a.m.– Youth cross country championship U12 & U18 – no entry free
11:15 a.m.– Recreational solo kayak race – 2 mile race
11:45 a.m. – Raft races
Noon – Men’s high heel sprint
12:30 p.m.– Kid’s Olympics
2 p.m. – Awards