Our Look at the Epic Ohio River Paddlefest as We Plan for an Expanded Blazing Paddles on the Cuyahoga River

Last September we headed to the Sustainable Cleveland Summit where we shared with attendees our experience of hosting Blazing Paddles on June 23, 2018, one year before the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire. If you’re not familiar with the fun that happened at Blazing Paddles this year, check out our blog post Blazing Paddles Paddleboard Race Stokes the Cuyahoga River.

Once we got the inaugural Blazing Paddles under our belt, we began to focus on what needed to happen for an expanded Blazing Paddles that would incorporate expanded recreational uses of the river to show the world on June 22, 2019 how far the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland have come since the June 22, 1969 fire. In 2019 Blazing Paddles will be the public recreational on-the-water celebration of the City of Cleveland/Sustainable Cleveland’s Cuyahoga50 events leading up to June 22, 2019 anniversary.

Someone whispered in our ear we should reach out to Brewster Rhoads, the founder and chair of the EPIC Ohio River Paddlefest, a great event that’s also a fundraiser for Adventure Crew. After a few conversations with Brewster it became clear we HAD to experience that event for ourselves and we spent three days watching (and documenting) Brewster, his management team, and an army of volunteers host a flawless 18th Ohio River Paddlefest. The scope and scale is incredible.

Listening to Brewster talk about the vision for the Ohio River Paddlefest reminded us a LOT about our efforts to reframe the Cuyahoga River (and Cleveland) narrative. See if you agree!

One amazing aspect of the Ohio River Paddlefest is how it raises over $100,000 for Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati. Imagine what impact an initiative like that could have on Cleveland’s kids. During Paddlefest’s set-up we caught up with several volunteers to get their perspective. As any organizer knows, no large scale event like the Paddlefest happens without an army of volunteers!

After the 2018 Ohio River Paddlefest wrapped we talked with Dave Schmitt, Executive Director of the Mill Creek Alliance, who shared some insight on their programs that expose urban youth to nature, often for the first time.

No event with the size and scope of the Ohio River Paddlefest can happen without the support of sponsors. Cary Graham, Physicians Marketing Manager at St. Elizabeth Healthcare (Ohio River Paddlefest’s title sponsor) shares some thoughts on their involvement.

We are in the process of securing river access that will allow kayaks and canoes the ability to pass the site of the 1969 fire during a separate 6 mile float down the river to Rivergate Park. After reading this post, you now have a better feeling for the opportunity at hand. Let’s work together to make it happen on June 22, 2019! Contact us at sharetheriver3@gmail.com

2018 Ohio River Paddlefest Photos