You can run through mud and over obstacles. You can paddle earnestly for prize money. You can try your skill in various activities.
Or you can shop, listen to music and eat.
Yep, that just about covers the annual Smith River Fest.
More than 60 vendors, with wares ranging from fishing gear to Lularoe products to four-legged friends, from all over Martinsville, Henry County and beyond, will be there Saturday for the festival’s 12th installment.
Along with handmade jewelry, artisan crafts and outdoor equipment, there will also be a variety of food vendors serving everything from barbecue to chicken to ice cream.
But one of the highlights of the festival is the annual Helgramite Hustle. This event is a typical 5K/3.1 miles in length, but the course is anything but standard. Instead of running on an even, paved pathway, athletes pay up to $50 to battle their way through a cavalcade of messy, muddy obstacles.
“It is appealing to dedicated and casual runners,” said Beth Stinnett, assistant director of tourism for Martinsville and Henry County. “The course offers multiple obstacle courses including mud pits that can be challenging and downright fun.”
Children also can get in on the fun with a free kids mini mud run scheduled for 11 a.m.
At 12:30 p.m., there is another highly anticipated event – the boat race. At $20 for one person or $30 for a tandem watercraft, racers will zoom down the Smith River in timed flights, with a winner to be determined at the end of the event.
The race will begin at the South Martinsville River Access, located near Indian Heritage RV Park at 280 Tensbury Dr., and will end at the Smith River Sports Complex Access, creating a 4.5-mile river route.
Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards are all allowed to participate.
For those who want to take part in the fun but don’t have a vessel, there will be several onsite available for lease.
“There will be boats available to rent by Smith River Outfitters if someone wants to participate, but doesn’t have their own,” Stinnett said.
“There will be trophies awarded to both the Helgramite Hustle 5K winners, as well as the boat race winners. Smith River Outfitters has made gorgeous trophies in the shape of paddles for the boat race winners.”
For those who don’t want to race but do want to enjoy the river, Henry County Parks and Recreation will provide free shuttles for people and their boats throughout the day.
Another anticipated event won’t be part of the Smith River Fest this year, but it is afloat for later this month.
“The Boys and Girls Club of the Blue Ridge thought it would be best to move the Duck Race back due to the Smith River Fest being so close to back to school,” Stinnett said. “The weeks leading up to school starting back is a very busy time for them.”
Instead, the annual Duck Race is scheduled for Aug. 24 at Smith River Outfitters in Bassett. Ducks are available for purchase through the nonprofit organization. The grand prize winner will receive $3,000.
“We look forward to the Duck Race and encourage everyone to adopt their ducks and support an amazing program,” Stinnett said.
Although early afternoon thunderstorms dampened attendance last year, more than 1,500 people still participated. Guests came from 11 different states and 39 different Virginia communities. This year, organizers expect an even larger crowd.
“We usually see a growth each year, and as long as the weather holds out, we expect a big crowd this year,” Stinnett said.
A dozen years in the making, the Smith River Fest continues to bring families, friends and loved ones together to celebrate the scenic body of water that flows through Martinsville and Henry County.
“Smith River Fest has continued to grow. We try to keep the festival exciting by adding new and different components as we go along. The new Paddling Demo Pool sponsored by Sovah Health is a perfect example,” Stinnett said. “We will also have the regional favorite band, Crawford and Power, scheduled to come back, and there is some buzz going around for them. The festival offers so many different options, that it’s a perfect way to spend a summer day. “