Rainfall on the Missouri River did not dampen the spirits of paddlers and crew gathered to compete in the 12th annual race to the dome on Saturday.
The run benefits Missouri River Relief, a Colombia-based organization dedicated to stewardship of the river through education and river clean-up programs.
“It’s a kind of renewed energy to see people come out in a weather that isn’t your ideal situation,” said Kristen Schulte, director of education for Missouri River Relief.
A sea of colorful raincoats and life jackets made up a small crowd eager to start the 27.6-mile run from Providence Access to Jefferson City. With rain forecast all day, lightning and hypothermia were among the risks for participating kayakers and canoeists.
“Please make sure you have good rain gear, or a garbage bag, or something to keep your body temperature warm,” advised Kory Kaufman, volunteer board member for Missouri River Relief.
Due to the low water levels, the race starting at Providence Access was divided into three rounds depending on the type of boat and the number of people in a given boat. Participants also had the option of starting at Hartsburg Access for a shorter run distance of 15.8 miles.
Lisa Osburne attended the race to serve as a ground crew for her husband, a job that involved helping set up the kayak, launching it and meeting him at the finish line in Jefferson City. She said what started with attempting the 340-mile MR340 race with a friend ended with four kayaks in their garage.
“He’s got kayaking fever now,” she said, joking that “it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.”
Kayaker Grant Christensen said he looked forward to “peace and quiet, seeing all the scenery from the river.” The opportunity to support Missouri River Relief while participating in a short distance race led him to participate.
Race to the Dome sponsors allow registration fees from paddlers like 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 people crossing paths. They are not just runners; they also come to education programs, ”said Schulte.
This mix of participants brought a friendly atmosphere to the event. The ground crew and paddlers cheered, and applause rang out as a megaphone signaled the start of each round.
Food, drinks and free loot awaited the rowers at the end of the race. Place finalists won a medal and wine from St. James Winery, and a cedar strip paddle board was up for the draw. Beverages were provided by Logboat Brewing Company, Waves Cider Co. and Fetchel Beverage & Sales, Inc.
“The finish line is always a big party,” said Schulte.