Putting the “river” back in the River Festival

The River Festival in Hoquiam is scheduled for Saturday, July 21, and the Polson Museum would like to put a little more “river” into this year’s festival.

In thinking about the history of community events once held so frequently on the Hoquiam River, the Polson is taking a page from the past in organizing two races that will be free to the public to enter.

The first, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. that day, will be a single-person kayak race (the type of boat isn’t limited to a kayak, so long as it’s just one person paddling it). The second, scheduled for 3 p.m., is a two-person canoe race (this one is limited to canoes only).

Both races will start with a line-up under the the Riverside Bridge, run downriver to the Simpson Avenue Bridge and return to the finish line at the starting point.

Historically, all sorts of community races were held on the Hoquiam River at summer events. The most well-known was the “Splash” festival which began in 1913 and featured log rolling, bucking and falling competitions, swimming races, “tilting” matches in duck boats, power boat races, and even a “Battle Royal” where contestants fought each other to stay aboard a barge stationed in the middle of the river.

This year’s festival will also have the customary activities centered along Levee and 8th streets as well as the 8th Street Landing. As in years past, a wide assortment of kid-oriented games and activities are scheduled for the day.

In addition to organizing the races, the Polson Museum will be holding an open house during the hours of the festival (from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) as well as selling our popular Red Wrangler Raffle tickets on 8th Street.

The “Indian sports” category is what inspired us at the museum to bring community races back to the river.

In the original Splash festival, single-man canoe, single-woman canoe, single-man single-capsize canoe, triple-man double-capsize canoe, and unlimited man war canoe races were held.

Our races are open to anyone and we don’t have separate categories for men, women, or children. Our simple philosophy is that the fastest contestants with the fastest crafts win. We have received some excellent sponsorships for prize money which for each race is as follows:

Timberland Bank is sponsoring $100 first prizes, Gordon’s Service is providing $50 for second, and Protheroe’s Economy Cleaners is providing $25 for third. Needless to say, we’re hopeful that we get a good turnout of enthusiastic people looking to have a good time on the water. We also hope that folks will turn out all along the banks to cheer the contestants on.

Participants are required to have approved life jackets and a noise making device (whistle or air horn) to enter (these two items are Coast Guard requirements for non-motorized watercraft). Racers may register ahead of time at the Polson Museum, City of Hoquiam Community Services Department, or Gray’s General Store at 520 Simpson Ave. in Hoquiam. Race-day registration will take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at a table staffed in front of the 8th Street Ale House.

On race day, any registered participants are welcome to use the long private dock nearest 7th Street owned by Jim and Dinah Sue Wrey. The 8th Street Landing may also be used but space there will be more limited as the Coast Guard and Sheriff’ss Office are planning to have their boats in place for the day to promote boating safety.