SYRACUSE — Cloudy weather, cooler summer temperatures and chances for rain didn’t keep participants of Saturday’s Arkansas River Run from taking a dip and floating in the winding river.
“We were scared about the weather, but it looks like it’s going to clear up and we’re going to have a wonderful day, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said Carol Limon, one of the organizers of the event.
Limon said the event served as a fundraiser for about a dozen Syracuse eighth-graders, who are planning to take a trip to Washington, D.C.
Nearly 150 people participated in last year’s run, and Limon said she hoped they could beat that this year.
For the River Run, participants entered the river about two miles west of Syracuse and floated about four miles down the river to the finish line, which was placed near the bridge at Kansas Highway 27, north of the Syracuse Sand Dunes.
“We have tanks, tubes, paddle boats, all kinds of stuff that goes down the river,” Limon said. “We see people coming from everywhere to rent out tubes in the summer because you just can’t float down a river anywhere.”
The River Run began in 1982, when people used horse tanks, tubes or other methods of flotation, though people had been floating long before that. The event took a hiatus after the river dried up, but was revived in 2015 when the river made a comeback.
“We started doing the river run again to bring history back,” Limon said. “This is our big fundraiser, plus it’s bringing history back. It’s just something for the community to get together.”
According to the National Weather Service in Dodge City, Syracuse received nearly 9 inches of rain over the last two weeks, so the river has had a consistent flow. When participants of the run entered the water by tube, the river appeared to be waist-deep or higher on many of them.
Limon said flotation devices were required, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks had boats in the river for extra safety precautions.
Participants each paid $5 to enter the river, and they were encouraged to decorate their vessels. A handful of groups decorated their vessels, with prizes given away to the top three.
Aaron Radke and a family friend, Braydon Wilson, 14, both of Syracuse, decorated their vessel.
“We’re tanking down the Arkansas River, so it’s a tank,” Radke said of his vessel, which was decorated like a war machine.
Radke named his tank BDOGS, which was short for Bulldogs, Syracuse High School’s mascot. His vessel was painted jet-black with red and featured a water cannon and water balloon bazooka.
When asked how long it took him to prepare his vessel, which took second place in the decorating contest, Radke said, “Too long,” adding that it took him about a week.
It was Radke and Wilson’s second year participating in the event.
Radke said he thought it was good to have the river run as a fundraiser for the eighth graders’ trip.
“I think it’s a really great option for these kids to go to D.C. and use this as a fundraiser, and for other kids and people to just float down the river and have some fun,” Wilson.
Mike Gomez and his son, 12-year old Adrain, traveled from Elkhart for the run. Gomez said it was he and his son’s second time participating in the event since its revival, though they missed last year.
Gomez built his vessel out of wood and large, blue plastic barrels. His flotation device was topped with a coat of green paint.
“It’s golf-themed,” he said. “We named it River Drive. We’re going to try and hit some golf balls on the river.”
Before entering the water, Gomez said he anticipated the water to be a bit chilly, but thinks the event overall is “great.”
“I think it’s good because it brings everybody out. It’s great activity, and it’s pretty unique … I hope they keep up with it because it’s a great time for everybody,” he said.
Limon said she and the youth the event benefited appreciate the community support.
“It’s wonderful how the community has come out to support these kids to get them to Washington D.C.” she said. “They're pretty excited.”
Contact Josh Harbour at firstname.lastname@example.org