Annual jaunt on the river raises funds for Chillicothe ChamberBy Tim Alexander For Chronicle Media — August 21, 2018
Those traveling state Routes 26 or 29 with a view of the Illinois River valley between Henry and Chillicothe on Aug. 19 may have glimpsed something unusual: upwards of 70 kayaks and canoes moving leisurely downstream.
Instead of the French fur trappers, Native American tribes and central Illinois commercial fishermen of the early 20th century, however, these modern-day paddlers were simply enjoying a beautiful day of camaraderie on the river while raising badly needed money for local chambers of commerce.
Participants paid $35 per person for the event, which included riverside meals in Henry, Lacon and Chillicothe — the three communities sponsoring the event — along with T-shirts, prizes and a secure, supervised route overseen by local first responders.
The Henry-Lacon-Chillicothe Canoe Kayak Jaunt, in its 17th year, is one of only two annual fundraising events to directly benefit the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce, according to Tiffany Moore, manager of the Chillicothe Chamber.
“This and our golf outing are our main fundraisers, and we count on them to kind of keep day-to-day things running. It helps ensure we have time and resources to help businesses get in touch with the community. Our main goal is to attract new members and build our business district,” she said.
The local Subway donated lunch in Lacon, while the Henry and Chillicothe C.O.C.s provided breakfast and dinner, respectively. Local businesses donate goods and services for raffles throughout the day that help offset costs. Bushwacker continued its longtime support of the event with donations of gift certificates.
Eight Chillicothe C.O.C. “ambassadors” showed up to assist Moore at Chillicothe’s Shore Acres Park and help grill food and ice down refreshments for the incoming kayakers.
At around 1:30 p.m., five hours after leaving Henry, the first paddlers made their way to shore. Peorian Kathy Jones was first to pull her vessel from the river, battling cramps from what she said was around three and a half hours of paddling.
“There was not much push” to the current due to low water levels on the river, noted Jones, a competitive kayaker who was pursuing her hobby the prior weekend on Italian waters and will head to St. Charles, Mo., next weekend for a race on the Missouri River.
“The push was still good enough, though. I like this trip because everything you need is provided along the way,” Jones said.
She and some of the other participants would like to see a race component added to the jaunt. Coincidentally, Moore had just discussed the possibility with a reporter.
“Next year, I am really looking forward to putting together a race, not just a jaunt. We’ll start the race about 15 minutes ahead of the others so as to not interfere with those who just want to take it easy,” Jones said.
“Adding a race component would draw more people in, even from other states,” Jones added.
The Chillicothe Chamber is in dire need of more volunteer ambassadors to assist during chamber events or events the chamber plays a role in.
For the kayak jaunt, she would like to see younger adults, or perhaps a youth group, step up and volunteer to assist those completing the journey in getting out of and carrying their boats to shore.
“When they get out of the water they are just exhausted. They have to carry these heavy vessels up the stairs to the parking lot,” Jones explained.
Those interested in learning more about the opportunity for next year can contact the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce at (309) 274-4556.
The day began with the group of participants meeting at Shore Acres to leave their vehicles and trailers and board a bus to Henry at 7:30 a.m. After a light breakfast in Henry, it was boats in the water for the 8:30 jaunt. All participants arrived back in Chillicothe safely.
— Annual jaunt on the river raises funds for Chillicothe Chamber —-