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Smith River Fest: Wet was ‘in’
Rain cut crowd but not enthusiasm for festival
Runners are shown at the start of the Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run, part of the Smith River Fest on Saturday at the Smith River Sports Complex. About 150 runners took part. Full race coverage is inside the Sports tab. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
The rain may have kept some people at home, but according to Smith River Fest staff and attendees, the event still was a success.
Smith River Fest, now in its seventh year, took place Saturday at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton.
Jennifer Doss, director of tourism at the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said that based on the number of vendors, Saturday’s event was the largest yet.
“We sold more booths than ever before in the past seven years,” she said. “The rain did keep some of our vendors from coming out today, but the enthusiasm is still high. Everyone here is excited to be here, and we’ve met people from all over the Southeast. We’ve got a lot of paddlers who drove up from North Carolina to hit the river today. Everyone’s in good spirits, and we’re just happy to have everyone out today.”
Doss said that at last year’s Smith River Fest, 2,400 people attended from 14 states. Saturday, she said 600 people attended the festival.
“Considering the weather, we are delighted at that number and grateful for all the vendors volunteers and participants who braved the rain to come out and celebrate the outdoors with us today,” she stated in an email.
Early Saturday, she said, she already had met some visitors from Pennsylvania, who have driven to Henry County to attend the festival each of its seven years.
“That just goes to show it’s a fun atmosphere and it keeps folks coming back,” she said.
The highlights of the event included three races: a 4.8-mile river race, the Helgramite Hustle 5K Mud Run and Blue Ridge Duck Race 5000, sponsored by Martinsville Speedway.
Cari Zimmer, director of Activate for Martinsville-Henry County YMCA, oversaw the river race and the mud run.
The rainy weather only improved the mud run, Zimmer said, which had 150 entrants.
“You just sink in,” she said. “We’ve got duct tape, (because) people might want to duct tape their shoes on. There are shoes in (the mud holes) from last year, actually. I found a few the other day.”
“Frankly,” Zimmer added, “I’m just so happy to see rain. I don’t mind being out here on a wet, wet day.”
Gregg Dean, who coaches Martinsville High School’s cross country and track and field teams, won the mud run. Susan Lester, 14, of Martinsville, was the winner of the women’s division with a time of 26:34.8. (See related story in Sports.)
Henry County Director of Parks and Recreation Roger Adams said more than 40 boaters entered the river race, competing in a variety of categories, including racing kayak, recreational kayak, solo canoe and tandem canoe.
The winners of the river race were Thomas Eck, men’s racing kayak; Emily Harper, women’s racing kayak; Derek Miller, men’s recreational kayak; Jennifer DeForest, women’s recreational kayak; Christopher Freedle, men’s solo canoe; and Cory Maine/Daisy DeJesus, tandem canoe.
Adams said 6,000 people “adopted” rubber ducks at $5 each for the duck race that raised money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. The ducks were dropped off the U.S. 58 bridge, and the first three ducks to cross the finish line near the sports complex won $2,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively.
The winners of the duck race were Regina McGuire of Oak Level with first place; Sean Dunn of Martinsville with second; and James Beckner of Collinsville with third.
Some of the ducks, however, escaped the barriers set up at the finish line and floated down the river. Swimmers and boaters worked to retrieve them.
“Kids are out enjoying the rock climbing wall, the bounce houses ... the food, the music,” Adams said. “We didn’t have the turnout we would have had if the weather was nice, but considering that, it’s been a good day.”
Christine Essary and son Alex Essary, 15, both of Bassett, said that they were having a great time at the festival, though Alex found it hard to pick a favorite attraction.
“That’s a hard one,” he said. “There’s a lot of good stuff here.”
Christine Essary didn’t hesitate when it came to her favorite attraction: “Coffee.”
Alfredo and Romero Garcia were looking forward to the mud run, while Elizabeth Garcia was looking forward to seeing the duck race.
Alfredo Garcia — who was planning to run a triathlon today — said that he definitely was planning on duct-taping his shoes before the run, especially since he’d seen a few shoes sucked off people’s feet when he competed in the mud run last year.
Tonya Carter, who was entering the mud run with three co-workers from River Community Bank, said the rain didn’t deter her in the slightest.
“I heard it was 95 (degrees) and miserable last year, so this should be great,” she said.