by Gwendolyn Temple, WNY Steward
Paddles Up at Beaver Island, held on Saturday, July 30th, was an event dedicated to getting kayakers out exploring the local landscape around their community.
The day began with an early morning ecotour, designed to get people out during the post-dawn hours of the morning when wildlife appears most active. Then, paddlers were brought back in to set up for the larger paddling event. During their break, they could indulge in some breakfast or look at the vendors that had been set up during their time out on the water. These vendors included RiverKeeper, Wear It, New York!, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, WEKANU, Flying Bison, and many more.
Holly and I had set up our table next to the Wear It, New York! display, and as such, received much of their foot traffic. Many people were genuinely interested in our cause to prevent aquatic invasive species from getting into New York State waterways. As such, we found that our pamphlets had to be refilled a number of times during the course of the event. To see that many kayakers become enthusiastic about our cause was very uplifting. Of course, many of the patrons did stop by to give a look at our free merchandise, but were very happy to engage us in conversation about our positions with the Parks office and our AIS spread prevention at local boat launches.
Before lunch, a raffle was held for kayaking and camping related items, then the main paddling event began. Hundreds of kayaks launched out into the Niagara River to paddle together and, as stated by many return patrons, this was the largest turn-out they had seen thus far. Many of the patrons hope that the event continues to grow larger and larger every year as it is not only good for kayakers as a networking experience, but also brings a lot of people from outside the area into their local parks.
Around lunchtime, a number of food trucks began to show up, including Cheesy Chick, a grilled cheese truck, Dirty Bird, a chicken and waffles food truck, and House of Munch, a truck that specialized in state fair food. Other tent vendors set up to sell food as well, such as the shish kebab tent that experienced a large gathering of patrons. When kayakers were thoroughly exhausted from paddling, they came in and sat down at the tables inside our main pavilion with the vendors to eat what they had bought. This was a good bonding experience, as many patrons enjoyed simply chatting with us about the event and how it could be improved for the next year. These suggestions included having more advertisements for the event in the weeks leading up to the paddle, spreading the event through word of mouth from people who participated, and having more press releases about the paddle after the event.
As the event settled down, many people began to make their way home just as the park was beginning to note its typical bustling clientele. All in all, the event was incredibly fun and exciting. The public was very responsive to our cause, which is sometimes not seen at our typical boat launches. I would highly recommend participating in a Paddles Up event either as a patron or a vendor if anyone ever has the chance.