WAGRAM — Whether for a swift paddle down the river in a canoe or kayak, to test the mettle of a homemade raft, run through the state park, or just have fun in the spring sunshine, more than 600 people turned out to the Chalk Banks Access Area of the Lumber River State Park on Saturday for its eponymous river challenge and festival.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Cory Hughes, director of the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority. “The weather was perfect and we had a great crowed that experienced just how unique and beautiful the Chalk Banks area is.”
Brent Spivey of St. Pauls was the first of the dozen homemade rafts to set off from Chalk Banks to reach the U.S. 401 wildlife landing two miles down river — a journey of just over 41 minutes. As the winner, Spivey selected the Fort Bragg Fisher House as recipient of the $200 TDA Charity Prize.
Leslie Whitlock of Gibson came in second, followed in third by Boy Scout Troop 420 from Laurinburg Presbyterian Church and their “Blue Bacon” raft.
But finishing at the head of the pack was not a prerequisite for a day well spent. Some participants finished the race mid-river, vowing to return next year with a better engineered raft. Addie Pratt of Laurinburg set out with three friends to tackle the Chalk Banks Challenge in outriggers made of industrial barrels and PVC pipe — but though the raft floated, it was overwhelmed by the Lumber River’s swift current.
“We’re definitely going to try again but we’ll probably have a different design,” she said. “It just a very fun event that you don’t get in a lot of places. It’s a beautiful area and it’s just a little something out of the ordinary that we have available here in Scotland County.”
In other river events, the father-daughter team of William and River McDuffie won the tandem canoe race for the fourth year running. River, aged 15, then performed an encore by winning the female solo kayak division.
Long kayak was won by Derrick Coleman, with Will Cooper finishing first in the male recreational kayaks.
The festival also hosted the one-mile Scotland County Elementary School Cross Country Championship, with Sycamore Lane Elementary students taking both the boys’ and girls’ trophies: Bryce Miller finishing in 8:03 and Ella Miller in 8:47. In the boys’ championship, Cole Hamilton took second place and Christopher Fairley came in third. In the girls’ division, Morgan Monrah came in second place followed by Grace Ward in third.
The top 5K trail run finishers were Cannon Heath in first, David Carmichael in second, and Allen Bumbarner in third among the men, and Mary Carmichael in first, Ellen Sims in second, and Hannah Canady in third among the women.