Paddlefest turns 20 in 2021; celebrates with new features

CINCINNATI, OHIO – Ohio River Paddlefest will return to the water for its 20th year on Saturday, August 7, 2021. To mark the anniversary, event organizers are adding exciting new features to the hallmark event.

“After taking Paddlefest virtual in 2020, we can’t wait to get back on the water for our 20th year,” said Miriam Wise, associate director of the nonprofit Adventure Crew, which produces the event. “With a second paddling option and an expanded Friday night party, 2021 promises to be the best Paddlefest yet!”

Dreamed up by friends who wanted to paddle together, the first Ohio River Paddlefest took place in 2001 with 275 paddlers. It has since grown to become the nation’s largest paddling celebration, attracting some 2,000 paddlers for a 9-mile float down the Ohio River the first Saturday in August. The paddle is bookended by a Friday night pre-party and post-paddle Finish Line Festival on Saturday.

Special for its 20th year, the event will feature a half-distance (approximately 4.5-mile) paddle for those who’d like to try paddling the Ohio without committing to the full distance.

“We hope the shorter distance will appeal to families and others who’d prefer a shorter adventure,” Wise said.

Also new this year is an expanded Friday night pre-party. The all-new Outdoors for All Expo will feature exhibits and demos from local parks, outdoor outfitters, adventure experts and environmentally minded organizations, plus live music, local beer and food trucks. Attendees can ride in a voyageur canoe, hang out in the hammock lounge or test ride a bike from a local outfitter. Held at Schmidt Recreation Complex, the site of Saturday’s Paddlefest launch, the event is free and open to the public and runs from 4-9:30 p.m. Organizations interested in exhibiting can apply on the event website.

On Saturday, both paddling routes start at Schmidt Recreation Complex, 2944 Humbert Ave. in the East End. The 4.5-mile paddle finishes at the Public Landing in Downtown Cincinnati, while the 9-mile paddle continues to Gilday Recreation Complex, 3540 Southside Ave. in Riverside. Participants can use their own boats, or they can rent a kayak or canoe with advance registration. Those who travel to Gilday can enjoy the post-paddle Finish Line Festival, with a “Conservation Corridor” of exhibits, plus food trucks and local beer.

Event organizers will follow all state COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe and fun event.

Registration is now open. The cost for the 9-mile paddle is $55 for adults; $25 for youth (17 and under); the 4.5-mile paddle is $50 for adults; $20 for youth. Prices increase after June 30.

All proceeds benefit Adventure Crew, which provides free outdoor recreation opportunities to city teens in 24 high schools in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

“Your Paddlefest participation helps Adventure Crew get teens outdoors for activities such as kayaking, biking and hiking,” Wise said. “So a fun day paddling with us is also a way to share your love of the outdoors with kids who might not otherwise have access to nature.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare will return as the presenting sponsor of Paddlefest in 2021. Event organizers are currently accepting additional sponsorships.

About Paddlefest

The Ohio River Paddlefest is recognized as the nation’s largest paddling celebration, with 2,000 participants traveling up to nine miles through downtown Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky in canoes, kayaks and other human-powered craft. Established in 2001, the event, which is held the first Saturday in August each year, is a project of Adventure Crew. For more information, visit www.ohioriverpaddlefest.org.

About Adventure Crew

Adventure Crew is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting city teens in Greater Cincinnati with nature through engaging recreation, education and conservation activities. Founded in 2013, the nonprofit now serves all Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) high schools, seventh and eighth graders in select CPS elementary schools, and five schools in Northern Kentucky – a total of 24 schools and nearly 1,000 students. Through challenging monthly adventures, city teens develop the courageous spirit to step out of their comfort zone and discover new worlds – outside in nature and inside themselves. This deep connection to nature will set a positive course for their lives – and help create the next generation of environmental stewards. For more information, visit www.adventurecrew.org.

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