Hanson Hills brings back winter festival’s downhill canoe racing
Grayling offers a wide variety of canoe races during the summer months. The Spike’s Challenge. The Business Relays. The Paddle Battle and the H.U.P. Race. The 120-mile AuSable River Canoe Marathon. On Saturday, at Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Grayling Recreation Authority added a winter canoe race to the mix, bringing back an old winter festival favorite.
GRA conducted the Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out on Saturday at the Hanson Hills tubing run, and the event featured nine kayaks and four canoe teams competing for custom-made trophies supplied by Sylvester’s of Grayling.
“I’m very happy with the participation,” said Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority.
The Canoe Division featured teams of two representing area businesses. Results were: 1st, Exit Realty, 21.26; 2nd, Hanson Hills, 21.77; 3rd, Tinker’s, 34.69; 4th, Spike’s, 35.32.
Results of the Kayak Division: 1st, Dayne Rohn, 17.64; 2nd, Henry Weiss, 17.68; 3rd, Marcelo Galizio 18.00; 4th, Patrick Rota, 18.23; 5th, Jean Slade, 18.59; 6th, Caleb Handy, 18.64; 7th, Curtis Delo, 19.24; 8th, Christine Heath, 38.71.
Scott Norman won the Outlaw Division with a time of 17.35 with his kayak-on-skis entry.
Blizzardfest is Grayling Recreation Authority’s new version of its February winter festival, replacing Winter Fun Days. GRA teamed up with the Grayling Youth Booster Club for the revamped winter event, keeping some of the Winter Fun Days events, changing a few, and adding new events.
GRA changed the format of its chili cook-off for Blizzardfest, allowing amateur cooks to submit chili instead of local restaurants, but the event ended up being canceled due to a shortage of entries.
“We just have to market it better,” Andre said.
The Grayling Youth Booster Club added a Beer Tent to Saturday’s festivities, and free tubing for the winter festival remained a popular event.
“We had a ton of tubers, probably 150,” Andre said.
Blizzardfest also featured a Big Air Competition for skiers and snowboarders – a Winter Fun Days carryover – and a Hanson Hills Race Team slalom event on Sunday.
Andre said the Grayling Youth Booster Club ended up raising hundreds of dollars through the weekend of events, and GRA was “happy to have that” partnership with the organization for Blizzardfest.
“I think they raised just over $1,000,” Andre said.
Overall, Andre said the revamped weekend went well.
“I think people loved it. We were pleased with the turnout,” Andre said.
GRA is already making plans for next year’s Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out. The plan is to conduct Blizzardfest during the same weekend – mid-February – in 2020.
“We will be racing canoes again next year. That’s going to happen,” Andre said.