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Fox River location for Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race

Karl Teske of North Aurora is a member of the St. Charles Canoe Club and chose to show off some of his skills Saturday morning during the 59th Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River.

“I’ve been coming to this race for decades. It’s just something I’ve been doing since I can remember,” he said. “We have a number of people from our club and we are always here together to do this.”

Fox Valley Park District officials continue to consider the race one of the area’s recreational highlights of the year.

As always, Fox River water levels were carefully monitored leading up to race time, and late Friday afternoon new race director Lynn Piotrowski, facilities manager of the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, declared things were underway.

She added that thanks to a last-minute push, race participation is up about 5% this year compared to a year ago.

“There is always a flood of last-minute registrations and we now have 230 boats and 350 participants,” Piotrowski said before the race.

Saturday’s rain would not hinder the event, Piotrowski said.

“We run the race, rain or shine,” she said.

This year, a new wrinkle was added to the race when construction of the Island Park pedestrian and rail bridge that crosses the Fox River in Geneva forced officials to move the location of the launch site for the long course race from Mt. St. Mary’s Park in St. Charles to Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva.

Piotrowski said the move meant that “some of the more serious racers will have to adapt this year.”

“There are people who absolutely track their race times from year to year, so this year will obviously be different,” she said.

Jennifer Miksula of Montgomery said this was her second year participating in the race and that, regarding the new starting point, “I think safety with the new bridge construction is the key.”

St. Charles Canoe Club members Karl Teske of North Aurora and Jennifer Miksula of Montgomery were among the hundreds who participated in the 59th Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River on Saturday.  (David Sharos / For The Beacon News)
St. Charles Canoe Club members Karl Teske of North Aurora and Jennifer Miksula of Montgomery were among the hundreds who participated in the 59th Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River on Saturday. (David Sharos / For The Beacon News)

“You definitely have to be careful and there are people who are new, so I think it’s a smart move,” she said of the race. “For me it’s just about doing things with friends. I’m part of the St. Charles Canoe Club, so this is something we do, so it’s pretty local.”

Teske said he was a little disappointed with the change in the launch area.

“A good paddler should have no problem going upstream there,” he said.

Teske dismissed the issue that veterans like him cannot compare this year’s race time with others because “a race is a race.”

“So? A race is a race and you have to show up to win or place,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long.”

Joe Welsh of North Aurora said this was his first year participating in the Fox River race, even though he and his family had been kayaking for years.

“We have since gotten rid of all our canoes so our friends gave us theirs,” he said. “Our only strategy is to survive and hunt down our friends before we finally catch them.”

Carl Lankenau of Warrenville provided Welsh and his crew with their canoes and told him, “We’ve done the race maybe 15 to 20 times.”

Joe Welsh of North Aurora, left, prepares to take a borrowed canoe to a launch point in Geneva on Saturday for the 59th Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River.  (David Sharos / For The Beacon News)
Joe Welsh of North Aurora, left, prepares to take a borrowed canoe to a launch point in Geneva on Saturday for the 59th Mid-America Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River. (David Sharos / For The Beacon News)

“Last year we even took first place with my daughter among the mixed couples,” says Lankenau.

Lankenau said he was more than happy with moving the launch point from St. Charles to Geneva.

“We looked at the railway bridge and it would have been dangerous for beginners because there is only one passage in the middle, so I think in the interests of safety it is not a problem,” he said. “At least everyone is still having a good time here.”

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.