Paddlers and crews endured the rain as they gathered Saturday for the 12th annual Race to the Dome on the Missouri River.
The race benefits Missouri River Relief, a Columbia-based organization that is dedicated to stewardship of the river through education programs and river cleanup.
“It’s kind of a renewing energy to see people coming out in weather that isn’t your ideal situation,” said Kristen Schulte, education director of Missouri River Relief.
A sea of colorful raincoats and lifejackets made up a small crowd eager to start the 27.6-mile race from the Providence Access to Jefferson City. With rain predicted all day, lightning and hypothermia were among the risks for the kayakers and canoers participating.
“Please make sure that you have some good rain gear on, or a trash bag, or something to keep your body temperature warm,” Kory Kaufman, voluntary board member for Missouri River Relief, advised the paddlers.
Due to low water levels, the race beginning at Providence Access was split into three heats based on boat type and number of people in a given boat. Participants also had the option to start at the Hartsburg Access for a shorter race distance of 15.8 miles.
Lisa Osburne attended the race to act as ground crew for her husband, a job that included helping set up the kayak, launching it and meeting him at the finish line in Jefferson City. She said what started out as attempting the 340-mile MR340 race with a friend ended with four kayaks in their garage.
“He’s got the fever for kayaking now,” she said, joking that “it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.”
Kayaker Grant Christensen said he was looking forward to “peace and quiet, seeing all the scenery on the river.” The opportunity to support Missouri River Relief while taking part in a shorter distance race drew him to participate.
Sponsors for the Race to the Dome allow the registration fees of paddlers such as Christensen to go directly to funding the general operations of Missouri River Relief, which brings a unique group of paddlers to the race.
“We have some people that cross over. They’re not just racers; they also come to education programs,” Schulte said.
This mix of participants brought a friendly atmosphere to the event. Ground crew and paddlers alike cheered, and applause sounded as a bullhorn signaled the start of each heat.
Food, drinks and free swag waited for the paddlers at the end of the race. Place finishers earned a medal and wine from St. James Winery, and a cedar strip paddle board was up for raffle. Drinks were provided by Logboat Brewing Company, Waves Cider Co. and Fetchel Beverage & Sales, Inc.
“The finish line is always a great celebration,” Schulte said.