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Posted May 21, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Committee, town take trial paddle in preparationfor August festival

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By M.K. Luther -- mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A small group of canoeists and kayakers dipped their vessels into the Shenandoah River on Tuesday afternoon to enjoy a swift trial run along the waterway's Front Royal border as a prequel to the town's summer river festival.

Front Royal's first river festival in more than a decade, On the River, is scheduled for Aug. 15 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the town's official 1999 Canoe Capital designation.

Sandra Charles and Don Roberts, co-chairs of the festival's committee, decided to do a test run of the river trip's course, inviting event organizers and members of Front Royal government to float on the river.

Front Royal Town Manager J. Michael Graham and Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald attended the test run to show their support for the upcoming summer event.

Roberts, of the locally based Front Royal Canoe Co., donated the canoes and kayaks for the small entourage to paddle and navigate a three-mile course from the Front Royal boat landing to the VFW landing. With the Shenandoah River levels running at a high of more than 3 feet, the group donned life vests and prepared for a quick and smooth ride.

"We are doing this because a lot of people who are going to run the route want to see what it is like," Charles said.

Jennifer Keck, director of tourism for Front Royal, said the event is planned not only to mark the 10-year Canoe Capital anniversary, but also to recognize and encourage recreation on the Shenandoah River.

"The river is a huge part of recreation here," Keck said. "People come out to canoe, kayak, tube and fish."

The August river festival is free of charge and there is no age requirement for participants, Keck said. The paddling activities will begin at 9 a.m., following the three-mile route from Front Royal Landing Park to the VFW landing site.

"It is not too long for people who haven't been in the river before," Keck said. "And it is a good introduction for people to see what is in their own backyard."

Entertainment, including live music, food and educational booths presented by Friends of the Shenandoah River, will be located at the VFW grounds.

A free shuttle service will transport participants from the VFW grounds to the Front Royal landing, and canoes and river gear will be available.

"Although if you do have your own boat, you are welcome to come," Keck said.

A paddle art decorating contest will be held in conjunction with the festival. For a $20 registration fee, completed paddles can be entered into a judging contest sponsored by the Blue Ridge Arts Council. Registration forms and blank paddles may be obtained from the Front Royal Visitor's Center.

For more information on the Aug. 15 On the River event, visit www.canoecapital.org or contact the Front Royal Visitor's Center at 635-5788.

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