For the first time this year, the pinnacle summer event of the Upper Ottawa Valley, the Upper Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival, will feature a signature event designed specifically for ill and injured soldiers and veterans.
Aimed at giving back to the local military community around Petawawa, the Reel Kayak Real Heroes event will introduce ill and injured soldiers to kayak fishing.
“It’s sort of a therapeutic type of activity. That’s the nature of kayak fishing, it lends itself to people coming back from an illness or an injury. It’s a quiet type of activity that can be non-competitive and it provides some exercise,” said Kelly Williams, Parks & Recreation Manager, Town of Petawawa.
The event will be held on the morning of Friday, Aug. 11, the inaugural day of the Upper Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival. It is being held in partnership with the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre and Soldier On. Soldier On is responsible for assessing soldiers to take part in the activity.
This year’s event is capped, on purpose, to 15 participants.
“Kind of, by nature, ill and injured soldiers can be a little hesitant about re-engaging in the community. We understand our clientele,” noted Williams.
Now in its third year, the Upper Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival is a premier event celebrating outdoor living on the Ottawa River that will take place from Aug.11 to Aug. 13. It attracts participation not only from those in the region but also avid paddlers from across the country.
“For us, we really are trying to celebrate our local rivers, our local waterways…and showcase the opportunities there are for recreational paddling and other water type of sports,” said Williams.
In its inaugural year the event welcomed 120 paddlers, last year 180 paddlers registered, and the hope is that this year the race will grow once again. Organizers are growing the event little by little “so we can offer something of high quality.”
Held in partnership between the Town of Petawawa and the City of Pembroke, the festival will be utilizing locations in both municipalities around the Ottawa River.
A major event of the weekend is the Upper Ottawa River Races that feature kayak, canoe, stand up paddling (SUP) and outrigger races on Saturday, Aug. 12. It is a 13 km race from Petawawa to Pembroke. There is also 4 km loop races taking place at Riverside beach.
For those not into the competitive side of paddling, there are many other entertaining events like the Heritage Paddle, which will take paddlers on a guided tour with local historians to many historical spots around the Ottawa River.
The festival also features a Kayak Fishing Derby, a multi-species event with prizes for the longest smallie, largemouth, pike, walleye and longest fish overall.
“The festival is really meant to let people experience the great paddling opportunities we have in the upper valley. Whether you’re local or from afar, we really have a great paddling showcase here in our backyard, and we really want people to experience it and enjoy the area. It’s an event that brings a lot of passion and a lot of great people. There’s something for everybody,” said Williams.
The Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival will also feature clinics and demos, SUP and aerial yoga, live music and the Reel Paddling Film Festival.
Registration, events and event timings, and maps are available on the Ottawa River Race and Paddle Festival website .
Soldiers and veterans can register for the Reel Kayaks Real Heroes event through Soldier On