Rollin’ on a river

By on May 20, 2009

Mid-Am Canoe Race returns June 7
courtesy of Jeff Long
Fox Valley Park District

The Fox River is a shimmering centerpiece that bisects dozens of communities, a glistening ribbon of water flowing 185 miles from Menomonee Falls, Wis., to the Illinois River near Ottawa.

Thousands of us share the shores of this precious resource, reveling in her natural beauty and the recreational opportunities she provides.

Those who have taken a canoe or kayak onto this treasured waterway have an even deeper relationship. Plying her waters amid the serenity of woods and wildlife creates a greater appreciation for just how valuable this gem really is.

Like an old friend who’s taken for granted, the Fox is always there. Since 1961, it’s hosted a festive fleet of boats each spring for the annual Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race. It features hundreds and hundreds of paddlers, and the faithful river is always ready to accommodate them.

More than 40,000 boats have glided down the Fox in that time, the experience providing paddlers long-lasting impressions earmarked for the “special memories” section in their heads.

When the 48th annual Mid-Am is run Sunday, June 7, it will combine tradition with a new twist. For the first time ever, two race lengths will be featured—a 10-mile race from St. Charles and a 6-miler from Batavia—both finishing at the Illinois Avenue bridge in Aurora.

The alternative distances provide an equitable balance for competitive racers and first-time families alike, combining the challenging elements of a full-scale race and an easy-going introduction for those new to paddling.

“Involving paddlers of all abilities makes a great event even better,” said race co-director Matt Saviello. “We have dads and daughters and old college roommates in the field. Even some grand-parents—we call them masters—have signed up to try the Mid-Am for the first time.”

Bridge construction in Batavia forced last year’s race to be shortened and moved to the fall. With that out of the way, Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles will be the starting point once again. But the popularity of last year’s race—which began at the Batavia VFW—led organizers to keep it as an alternative.

Expect the action along the banks, too. From St. Charles to Geneva to Batavia to North Aurora to Aurora, community festivities make the race memorable—barbecues, parties, cheering sections. The crowds are revelers and volunteers, and in many cases, both.

With spectators lining both sides of the river, some like to call this the Tour de Fox, albeit with more elbow room than that famous bicycle race in France.

Even so, this event is so much more than a race. Paddling through the river’s many channels and islands, riding her energetic current, viewing herons and wood ducks—and perhaps glimpsing an eagle—bring new definition to the term competitive nature.

And there’s plenty of opportunity to celebrate afterward. When the race ends, the action will continue with an outdoor party and awards ceremony at the finish area in McCullough Park.

The post-race festivities will include lunch catered by Jimmy John’s, entertainment, beer tent, kids’ games, boat demos and a county fair-like lineup of local vendors and merchants.

Each registered racer receives a commemorative race T-shirt and goodie bag afterward as well. Professional photographs will be available, too.

To register for the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race, visit

Volunteers needed for Mid-American Canoe Race June 7
The Fox Valley Park District is seeking volunteers for the 48th annual Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race, which will take place Sunday, June 7, on the Fox River between St. Charles and Aurora.
For the first time ever, the event will feature two race lengths—a 10-mile route from St. Charles and a 6-mile route from Batavia—necessitating the need for additional volunteers. The St. Charles leg of the race begins at 9 a.m. and the Batavia portion starts at 10:30 a.m.
“This race has traditionally brought members from all our communities together, and volunteering is a great way to get involved and be part of the festivities,” said Debbie Smith, outreach coordinator for the Park District.
Assistance will be needed at both start areas with organizing racers and controlling crowds and traffic. Volunteers also will be needed around the finish area at McCullough Park in Aurora to help as spotters, post race results and assist Park District staff during the post-race party and awards ceremony.
All volunteers will receive a commemorative race T-shirt and a complimentary lunch ticket.
Interested volunteers should contact Debbie Smith at (630) 966-4555 or e-mail her at