OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Paddlefest has proven to be an ever-growing event that allowed more than1,000 people to paddle the Oswego River in its fourth year in existence.
“This has always been the long-term vision, I had always hoped it would turn out just like this,” said one of the event founders, Jake Mulcahey.
Every summer, interested participants register at a $30 fee ($20 early registration fee) for each individual to kayak, canoe, or paddle board on the Oswego River.
Waves of participants left Saturday at designated times from the Indian Point launch point in Fulton for a 10.4 mile trek or from the River View Park launch point in Minetto for a 4.25 mile course, both ending at Wright’s Landing in Oswego.
Adults, children, and even dogs have taken the trip however, all participants are required to sign a waiver and wear a life jacket, and event staff offered sunscreen and equipment to rent if needed.
A celebratory “Rock the Locks” post event festival provided food, drink and live music to all participants at Wright’s Landing.
According to Mulcahey, nearly 900 individuals had registered online by the morning of the event with a yet undetermined but large estimate of walk-in registrations as the event began.
Paddlefest has quickly grown in popularity over its four years after an idea sparked a conversation between Mulcahey and Ben Turner of Murdock’s Bicycles and Sports.
Once the wheels were in motion to creating an official Oswego County Paddlefest, Janet Clerkin, Dick Drosse, John FitzGibbons and Jackie Sheffield teamed up with Mulcahey and Turner to make up the Paddlefest committee.
“These are the people who were there through the tough years, when we didn’t know how we were going to move forward. They were the ones who helped hammer it home and really stuck with it,” Mulcahey said.
Today, the event gains ground with the help of a few key players alongside the committee.
The 2016 Oswego County Paddlefest sponsors included Herb Phillipson’s, AXA Advisors, Oswego County FCU, Pinnacle Builder USA Inc., Zink Shirts & Screen Printing, Oswego County Tourism and Cre8 Studios.
“It’s gotten so big our little committee couldn’t do it alone. Cre8 Studios has played a big role and they’ve done a great job,” Mulcahey said.
The event also has support from multiple local emergency response departments including Minetto Fire Department, Fulton Police Department, Menters Ambulance, Oswego County Sheriffs, and New York State Police on hand in case of emergency.
Each year, Paddlefest donates proceeds to a nonprofit in the area.
This year, Oswego County Opportunities celebrating its 50th anniversary of service to the Oswego County community has been selected as the receiving organization.
OCO graciously offered 25 volunteers to help register and launch participants, and offered water and snacks.
Participants came from areas as far away as Weedsport and Pennsylvania, according to a few OCO registration volunteers.
One local participant, Lynn Mieczkowski took part in Paddlefest for her second year after thoroughly enjoying her first experience last year.
“I think its a great community event, its for a good cause with OCO this year, its a family friendly gathering and its good exercise, there’s not really anything to dislike about it,” she said.
Mieczkowski was traveling the course in a kayak with five other adults and two children of her family.
“It was a little harder this year and took a little bit longer because the wind was in our face, but the breeze was actually nice, I will be back again next year!” she said.
However, a lot of participants joined the Paddlefest in its fourth year for their first time.
Kathy Furbeck, traveling with her niece, Kayla Trail, said they were, “excited to try something new, and even more exited to see what we have inside of us, to make it all the way to Oswego.”
Furbeck and Trail plan to do a Tough Mudder Mud Run at the end of the month and thought Paddlefest would be great preparation.
Julie House, Donna Lemond, and Catherine Boula got festive for their first experience with Paddlefest, dressed as pirates for their water voyage.
“I like kayaking a lot but I could never find people to do it with me, so I finally recruited my girlfriends and we are excited to get going!” Julie House said.
Kelley Sheldon started from Minetto.
“It’s about four miles, I’m not sure,” she said. “It took three hours to get here. It was a little slower due to the wind. But, we all had fun.”
She goes kayaking in the Thousand Islands, she told Oswego County Today.
“This was something new for me to try and get out on the water on a nice day. You get to see things from the water’s perspective,” she said. “There were at least 700 kayaks in our group. It was a lot of fun. We had water guns, so we had ‘water wars’ while waiting in the locks.
Derek Caramella also started in Minetto.
“We took our time, had a lot of fun. I kayak around here. I do a lot for health and fitness. I don’t like to race too much. Just get outside on the water and have fun,” he said.
The event started about four years ago and has been doubling in size each year, he said.
“There’s probably 1,000 or more today. It’s a great thing for our community. This is my third time doing it,” he said. “Now I am heading over to the party. Definitely, cheeseburger and fries, get filled up. It was a workout, definitely a long workout.”
Even with more than 1,000 participants, Mulcahey and the team hope to see the event continue to grow while observing their success and all the fun Paddlefest has to offer.
“We’ve had our hiccups, trying to find an organization that fits us, but here we are as our own thing and I’m very proud of how it turned out,” Mulcahey said.
Steve Yablonski contributed to this report.