West Virginia's Tour De Coal Holds Virtual Kayaking Event
June 22, 2020 - If rain or high water comes it is up to Bill Curry to cancel the second largest flat-water kayaking event in the country. It has only happened once in 16 years, but this cancellation was not because of Mother Nature.
“And today we had to cancel of course because of the coronavirus, so here we are in a virtual Tour de Coal,” said Curry.
T-shirts, a raffle and more is part of the virtual event.
The Tour de Coal brings about 2,000 kayakers and their kayaks to the Coal River. The event is planned to support river conservation along the Coal, Big Coal, and Little Coal river-ways.
"It's a mad house all over normally you would see 30 people- volunteers handing out water," said Curry.
When Curry knew he had to cancel, they came up with the Virtual Tour de Coal idea. The virtual event is hosted on their website and social media, and it gives kayakers a place to share their trips on over 85 miles of river trails.
Thirty-dollar entry fees are way down, and that means river conservation initiatives will be harder to fund this year.
"Sixteen hundred people at $30 dollars each registering is what we normally expect," said Curry.
The Coal River Group hosts the event and president, Kris Radford says while they are holding the virtual event, it is nowhere near the normal turnout.
"We aren't coming close to the amount of money that we normally raise for Tour de Coal," said Radford.
Tour de Coal provides resources for large scale cleanups, signage along the river trails, and educational classes.
Mayor Scott James of St. Albans started the Yakfest two years ago and usually partners with the Tour de Coal.
“It’s the second largest flat-water kayaking event in the country,” said James. “Cincinnati is the only one with something bigger than we do and we think we are pretty close to that as is.”
The nonprofit is still doing kayak rentals too, but with many changes.
Curry said they are following five pages of COVID-19 guidelines from the state to keep up the kayak rentals.
Tour de Coal is also offering a raffle for a kayak donated by one of their sponsors. They are sharing bits of history on the the river and selling t-shirts.