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The river is calling
Smith River festival returns for 7th year
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Andy Parker of Collinsville and his dog enjoy riding a stand up paddleboard (SUP) on the Smith River. (Contributed photo by Smith River Outfitters)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Have you ever wanted to paddle a canoe? Do you know what a SUP or a PFD is?

The public can discover the answers to these questions and more Saturday at the seventh annual Smith River Fest. The free festival will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Smith River Sports Complex at 1000 Irisburg Road in Axton.

“Smith River Fest is a fun day for outdoor enthusiasts, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for newcomers to explore the many recreational opportunities that are available in our area,” said Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) and a co-founder of the event.

Last year, more than 2,400 people from 14 states participated in the event, and festival organizers expect those numbers to grow, according to the release. Main events for the Saturday’s event include a 4.8-mile long river race, the Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run and the Martinsville Speedway Blue Ridge Duck Race 5000.

Activities will be offered throughout the day to give participants a taste of outdoor opportunities available locally. Beginning at 9:15 a.m., staff from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine will demonstrate stand up paddleboarding (SUP) at the SRSC river access. Participants can watch a brief demonstration on how to balance and paddle the board and then take turns trying it themselves.

Those who want to participate in the free demonstration should wear clothing that can get wet and sturdy water shoes or sneakers, according to a news release. Life jackets, also called personal flotation devices (PFDs), will be provided for use during the demonstration.

Also during the festival, members of Smith River Trout Unlimited will showcase the art of tying flies for fly fishing and how to cast a fly rod. At the Smith River Fest Casting Pool, provided by Henry County Parks & Recreation and Martinsville-Henry County Tourism, participants can learn the proper technique to cast a fly rod and practice aiming for floating targets in the pool.

The free activity will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and all equipment will be provided.

At 11:30 a.m., Three Rivers Outfitters will take a group of paddlers on a guided 2.2-mile ride to Marrowbone Creek River Access. All skill levels are welcome and all equipment will be provided. The cost for this activity is $20 for kayaks and $30 for canoes, the release said.

From 2 to 5 p.m., the Dan River Basin Association, Smith River Outfitters and Martinsville Parks & Recreation will host the “Smith River Experience,” where those new to the sport of paddling can take a free 10-minute canoe ride in calm water to see what paddling is like. PFDs will be provided, and participants should wear clothing and shoes that can get wet.

Activate Martinsville-Henry County’s Bike Barn Mobile Unit will be at the event throughout the day allowing visitors to enjoy a free bicycle ride. Options will include seven-speed comfort bikes, a tandem bike and children’s bikes of various sizes, with and without training wheels. Helmets will be provided.

Several special interest groups will be on hand to showcase their organizations, including Blue Ridge Ski & Outing Club, MHC Inspire (Triathlon Training Club), Smith River Trout Unlimited, Master Naturalists, Henry County Bike Club, Dan River Basin Association, B.A.S.S. and more.

Bren Perkins, public relations chairman for the Blue Ridge Ski & Outing Club (BRS&O), invites the public to learn more about the club during the festival.

“Our club is open to all adults and families,” Perkins said. “We promote active lifestyles through a multitude of both indoor and outdoor activities and encourage everyone to come on out and explore Martinsville and surrounding counties with us in a way like never before.”

The club will host a group paddle trip departing from the festival grounds at 4 p.m. The public is invited and can sign up for the free trip by visiting the BRS&O Club booth at Smith River Fest.

Blue Ridge Outdoors will sponsor the ENO Hammock Village throughout the day near the Smith River Fest stage. There, participants may test out the hammocks and kick back for a while.

Smith River Fest is collaborative effort between Henry County Parks & Recreation, Martinsville-Henry County Tourism, Smith River Sports Complex, Dan River Basin Association, Activate MHC, Martinsville Parks & Recreation and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge. Vendor applications, race registrations and additional festival information can be found at or by calling 403-5695.


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