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Organizers with the 36th Annual Wild Hog Canoe & Kayak Race say it's still too early to know just how much money was made at Saturday's event, though, based on attendance, it's believed it will be one of the most prosperous.
"We tripled attendance," said organizer Keith Maynard about the event that helps provide funding each year for Levy ARC, an organization committed to providing programs and services to the developmentally disabled in the area."I had hundreds of people come up to me and say this was the best year ever. I think this year we'll see the highest (amount of money) yet."
Maynard said the race, along with the annual Ride to Provide, is for LARC an important source of funding, something that has continuously decreased every year for the last decade or so.
"They depend on the Wild Hog Canoe Race. We just take great pleasure in helping those who can't help themselves."
Hundreds showed up at the finish line on the Waccasassa River just north of Gulf Hammock Saturday morning to watch the 69 boaters who took part in the race this year. Spectators gathered along the shores amid the smell of barbecue dinners and the sounds of live bluegrass music, cheering as competitors each dragged his or her kayak or canoe over a fallen long at the finish.
Maynard said the race, along 15 miles of the rock, log and rapid-laden river, is one of the most challenging of its type.
"People all over the world tell you this is the best race."
Maynard's son, Daniel, and his partner Frank Couch, a relative of the race's originator, came in first place in the Experienced Class with a time of 2:21:22.
"We were trying to go full blast the whole time," Daniel, a little out of breath, said shortly after finishing. "It was rough, mostly because there were so many boats in the way."
Maynard said his goal for next year's event is to have at least 100 people register for the race. He attributed this year's success to getting the word out through Facebook, the event's website and flyers that were distributed as far away as St. Petersburg.
"The marketing effort was a big key," Maynard said. "The Lord really blessed it."