Interest in the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge and Festival continues to grow as organizers prepare for the 11th annual version of the event.
Guy Lamarche, manager of tourism and events for the City of Timmins, said early registration figures are up for the centrepiece of the festival, the kayak races.
“We had 104 paddler registrations, some from the United States, for the first one. We knew then that we were on to something,” he said. “We also knew it was supposed to end with the city’s centennial celebrations, but it just picked up steam.
“We’re at a point now where most, if not all, of that park is spoken for. It went from one day to two days to three days.”
Before the event begins, organizers hope to have double the number of paddlers from the inaugural year.
“Last year at this time, had 26 registered across all categories. This year, we are sitting at 43 registrations right now,” Lamarche said on Monday afternoon. “Of the total to date, 39 per cent come from eastern Ontario, southern Ontario and are going to be overnight visitors. That number will be closer to 200 next week at this time.”
Many of the local paddlers wait until the final week to file their entries. Deadline to register Thursday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m.
Generous corporate support received for the event has meant that it has little or no impact on city finances.
“It is revenue neutral for the city, outside of staff time,” Lamarche said. “Everything that you see there is paid for by the corporate sponsors, including park setup. People think that the city pays for the park setup and teardown, but no, we compensate parks and rec for their time.”
Monetary and in-kind donations make the event possible.
“Corporate entities step up and put in over $100,000 in cash and over $250,000 in kind every year to help sustain the event. That’s a huge around of money,” he said. “This year we raised in corporate cash $108,800 to support the programming. The in-kind contribution totals $244,776.
“We also show $12,300 in corporate gifts to support the awards ceremony. We’ll be drawing some flights to wherever Porter Airlines flies, we have some fly-in fishing trips courtesy of First Air Service.
“In addition to this, we’ve had some fairly good success with our government partners. This year they provided $36,125 to help offset our costs.”
This kind of support has kept the festival free for all attend over the years.
“It has been free and let’s make one thing clear, that is not your standard operating procedure (for a festival),” Lamarche said. “Show me another event this size, with this amount of programming in any city in North America that is put on for free.
“It is free admission, free parking, free camping for those who camp on site, free shuttles from hotels and other designated points of interest for pick up and drop off, and if that wasn’t enough, free unlimited cotton candy for everyone and anyone who attends the festival, courtesy of the Kiwanis Club.
“It’s all free because of the 100-plus corporations who have stepped up and believe in this festival.”
The Great Canadian Kayak Challenge and Festival runs Aug. 23-25 at Participark. For more information and a complete schedule of activities, visit thegreatcanadiankayakchallenge.com