January 21, 2010, 6:49AM
Popular with kayakers, the Muskegon River will play host to the U.S. Canoe Association’s Canoe and Kayak National Championships in 2011.NEWAYGO — For six days in August 2011, Newaygo will be transformed into a national epicenter for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts.
The U.S. Canoe Association on Tuesday announced that the Muskegon River in Newaygo has been chosen as the site of its 2011 Canoe and Kayak National Championships. The event is slated for Aug. 9-14.
Organizers say the competition could draw hundreds, if not thousands, of people to Newaygo for events that range from father-daughter canoe runs to professional-level kayak racing.
“It will be the biggest event ever held on the Muskegon River,” said Gabriel Slominski, co-owner of Powers Outdoors in Newaygo, the event’s lead sponsor. “This is a huge victory for Newaygo.”
Newaygo County, which has more than 230 lakes and 350 miles of rivers and streams, has long been a prime tourist spot for boaters. Slominski said the event will only add to the county’s stature.
“To be able to promote our whole community nationwide, it’s really going to put us in the spotlight,” Slominski said. “It will bring a lot of dollars into the community.”
A Web site for the event, where paddlers can register for races and other events, soon will be operational, he said. People interested in participating in the advanced events must meet a specific skill level and pay a registration fee; amateur events will be open to the public, he said.
“We’re trying to get some sponsors so we can have the amateur racers enter at no cost,” Slominski said.
Event organizers also are planning live music and street vendors during the event.
“We want to make it family friendly,” he said.
The races, depending on skill levels, could range from a quarter mile to 16 miles, stretching from the Croton Dam to Newaygo.
Business and tourism leaders in Newaygo were thrilled when they learned their city would be hosting the event, said Scott Faulkner, chairman of the Newaygo Area Chamber of Commerce.
He said he hopes the event will benefit local businesses and showcase the area’s tourism attractions.
“The businesses,” he said, “are very fired up about this.”