During its monthly meeting, Feb. 2, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce was visited by members of the Missouri Whitewater Association to promote the Missouri Whitewater Championship returning to Millstream Gardens, March 17-19.
Madison County resident Kyle Bales started things off by talking about the sport of kayaking and the MWA. He said he has been kayaking for five to six years now.
“A little bit about the MWA, we have some focuses that we try to share with the community,” Bales said. “We encourage growth in paddling, teach the skills required to be safe and to expand where you can go and how you can kayak. We also do sponsored trips, and we also have education on conservation. Part of that too is,we help with stream team.”
Bales said, a few weeks ago during a clean up event the group was able to retrieve a 30-foot-long, 3-foot-diameter culvert pipe that had washed in the river along with multiple tires and piles of trash.
“We try to clean up and not leave a mess, but instead leave it better than we found it,” Bales said.
When discussing the sport, Bales said kayaking is something anyone of any age or skill level can enjoy.
“There are folks that come out on the good warm days, and they are kind of our leisure group,” Bales said. “They come out when the water is a little lower and a little more calm. Then we have groups that go do steep creeks and end up out east and doing waterfalls and more difficult class water. We have folks that go out there where the rivers up multiple feet over the low water bridge. We just have several different facets to the community that various portions of us participate in.”
MWC Judging Coordinator Johnathon Lehmann said, the races are looking for volunteer judges and would love to see some of the locals get involved.
“We are in our 56th year and what Whitewater Races are, we use it as an arrival of spring,” Lehmann said. “A lot of people are familiar with the Millstream Gardens Conservation area, so that is where we have been holding it since 1987-1988. This race is all ran by volunteers.”
Lehmann said, the most important volunteers and ones needed the most are the race judges for the slalom races.
“The object of the slalom race is to go through the gates in the correct order, in the correct direction, without hitting them or worse totally missing them,” Lehmann said. “There may be 20 sets, maybe less. There have been some discussions about cutting back to 18 to make the race a little faster. What the slalom race judge does is hang on the side, observe and accurately record how each of the whitewater paddlers, racers, go and negotiate the gates. That they do it in the correct order, in the correct direction.”
Lehmann said, judges are broken up into groups with each judge only looking at one or two of the gates. The information collected and a signal is sent to the station judge who then calls it in to the judging tent.
“It is Saturday and Sunday and judges can volunteer for as little as half a day,” Lehmann said. “If you can do it for a full day that’s even better. Any volunteer that helps out for a full day, whether it is two half days or a full day, gets a free race day t-shirt.”
Lehmann said, there is no experience needed and they will teach you everything you need to know the morning of the race through diagrams and demonstrations.
“When John says anyone can do it, he is telling the truth,” volunteer John Mayberry said. “I started judging about five years ago and I’m guessing just about everybody in the room has heard about the annual whitewater competition and a lot of you have probably been out to the races. I had been as a spectator a few times and then I kayak recreationally, not whitewater.”
Mayberry said, he heard about the need for judges so he and his brother signed up to volunteer.
“I was a little worried, I thought ‘man I don’t know if I am qualified to do this or not,’ but it really is a piece of cake,” Mayberry said. “The little morning training session is a big help. That helped our confidence. Working at the station with 6 or 7 other judges. They help you through it. It is a very fun day and very rewarding at the end of the day.”
To apply to be a volunteer race judge for the MWC, visit https://missouriwhitewater.org/competition/race-volunteers/
For any questions regarding being a judge contact Jonathan Lehmann at email@example.com
“If anyone wants to boat locally, come find me,” Bales said. “We’ve got people out their boating from 8 years old all the way to, I boat with a gentleman from Cape who is 80, so it is a sport you can do your whole life.”
MCCC Executive Director Tessa Rehkop thanked Bales, Lehmann and Mayberry for sharing the information with the group and then conducted the regular meeting business.
“We have a lot of big plans this year with the chamber,” Rehkop said. “If you haven’t heard already, I am going to be the new executive director. It will be a full-time position for the chamber and we are hoping to add a whole lot more value to your membership. We plan to add to our events, provide different training for your organizations, and so much more.”
Rehkop said, part of the role will also include economic development through grant writing and promoting of the area through tourism.
The next meeting of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce will be at 11:30 a.m., March 2 at Follis Place Banquet Hall.