BOONE COUNTY — “We are just so thankful for how far we’ve come,” said organizer Teresa Perdue.
She was talking about Kevin’s Lazy River Adventure, which is more than a joyful three-hour kayak and canoe ride down the Big Coal River. The event celebrates the life and kindness of the late Kevin Kinder of White Oak.
“Kevin was my best friend and he was the kindest person you’d ever meet, and I could be down and out and he could make me laugh every time,” Perdue said. “He’d probably think it was something else that we do this every year. He was a sweetheart.”
The 10.5-mile float — from Racine Park to Dartmont Park with a “West Virginia style” picnic at the end of the trek — is entirely free for participants on July 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In 2019, more than 1,000 people attended the picnic and 625 participated in the river float. Last year, a COVID-19-influenced virtual float left supporters longing to get back on the river in 2021.
“We anticipate a good turnout, and we are doing all we can to make absolutely sure we have plenty of food to accommodate that,” Perdue added. “We’ve got 100 volunteers who give so much of themselves to make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible, and I appreciate every one of them — and the dedication of our sponsors has been tremendous.”
Perdue said the event draws floaters from around the state and far beyond.
“This year we have four flying in from Florida and we’ve had people come from 8 and 10 different states,” she said. “They make it an annual thing and it’s like a reunion for them.”
Produced by the Big Coal River Branch of the Coal River Group, organizer Jeff Petry has been involved in approximately a dozen of the events. The Rumble resident said it is a day for family and friends to reconnect and, often, make new friends.
“It is a very long day of fun,” he said. “It is also a lot of work, but you walk away at the end of the day just feeling really good about it and what it does for communities. You’re just proud to be associated with it.”
Organizers keep track of how many are in the river and who they are for the sake of safety, and a head count is performed at Dartmont Park prior to the picnic. Participants wear a wristband with a number for identification purposes.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone County Ambulance Authority, along with area fire departments, are on high alert the entire day in the case of an emergency or rescue situation.
The float will take participants from Racine to Peytona to Costa to Ashford and Dartmont.
“This year we are starting a day early in terms of staging,” Petry said. “It is the first year we are doing it like this, and we’re kind of mocking what the Tour De Coal in St. Albans has done because it has been successful. We are trying to alleviate pressure and traffic the morning of the event. On Friday afternoon from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., we are offering a drop-off that will be $5 and that will allow people to drop off their boat in a designated staging area the night before, and we hope folks will take advantage of that. The big thing that allows is for people to grab their boat on Saturday morning and take off and go.”
He added, “If we don’t offer this, you are looking at over 400 vehicles on a one-lane road trying to unstrap, unload and then register. Each year there is progress made to prevent chaos on the morning of the event. We think this will go a long way in that regard.”
Security is hired to protect the staging area and the picnic area the night prior to the event on both ends of the float trip.
Petry said seeing the event grow each year has been a joy for everyone involved.
“To go from 10 or 15 the first year to what we believe will be over 750 kayaks on the river is quite the string of growth,” Petry said.
Additionally, he offered some advice to first-time participants.
“Make sure you have all of your equipment required by the West Virginia DNR,” he said. “Bring some water and snacks and prepare to have a really good time.”
Petry said it’s a good idea to plan ahead for transportation, and shuttle services will be available for a small fee for those who need it.
“I think the part that I love the most is seeing the kids take pride and ownership of it through volunteering and being a part of it,” Perdue concluded. “This is their event.”
Sponsors like West Virginia American Water, Bridge Road Bistro, Todd Judy Ford, Appalachian Botanicals, Boone Memorial Hospital and Whitesville State Bank, among many others, make the event possible.
For questions and inquiries, contact Mary Browning at 304-837-3702 or Teresa Perdue at 304-836-5948. DNR law related to personal watercraft can be found at wvdnr.gov.