Paddlesports, wine, art at Aurora park
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media June 7, 2012 11:16AM
Illinois Paddlesports Festival
♦ June 9-10
♦ Phillips Park on Mastodon Lake, Aurora
Updated: June 7, 2012 3:17PM
New this year at the Illinois Paddlesports Festival will be an Art in the Park event.
The two events will share a location at Phillips Park in Aurora, said Gary Mechanic, organizer of the festival and vice president of the Illinois Paddling Council.
The Illinois Paddlesports Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 9-10, with Art in the Park running from noon to 5 p.m. both days.
The festival is produced by the Illinois Paddling Council, which is the umbrella organization for canoe and kayak clubs in Illinois. All the major paddle sports retailers will be on hand selling boats, gear and anything else a paddler would need.
“This is a great chance to see all of these major retailers in Illinois in one place and try out their boats and get a great deal on them,” Mechanic said.
Paddling clubs and other river-related organizations will be out as well.
“We offer free, two-hour classes in canoeing and kayaking and stand-up paddleboard,” he said. “It’s a great place to learn how to paddle. We have the Midwest’s best instructors.”
Additional classes cost $20, he said.
The two-day fest will feature demonstrations of a wide variety of paddle sports, from beginner to advanced; plus advanced lessons and skills competitions for the seasoned paddler. There will also be a chance to paddle the Fox River, free on-sight camping, a Paddler’s Rendezvous on Saturday night, and food and beverage vendors.
Additionally, Aurora’s Art in the Park event runs concurrently with the Paddlesports Festival. The event includes and art exhibit and sale, a wine tasting event, music and more.
“This year, we’re bringing in the Fox Valley Winery to do free wine tastings,” he said. “It’s sort of odd to pair art and wine with paddling, but altogether it’s a great cultural and recreational outdoor event in a beautiful setting.”
There will be mostly two dimensional arts, sculptures and other media. There will also be live music and food vendors, and a chance to purchase art.
People might be surprised to learn how many opportunities for paddlesports there are in this neck of the woods.
“If we were in the middle of Kansas, I’d have a hard time making this case,” he said. “We live in Northern Illinois and there are a lot of pretty natural waterways around here, like the bike trails, like the Illinois Prairie Path. The Fox River is also a water trail, and it’s a largely underused and underappreciated recreational resource.”
Being close to Lake Michigan’s water trail gives access to another natural world, he said.
People can expect to learn a lot about the world of paddlesports, he said.
“The retailers, the exhibitors … we put together a great show. Very visual,” he said. “It’s a terrific way to get introduced to the wide world of paddlesports. Not just canoeing and kayaking, (but) whitewater kayaking, kayak sailing, canoe sailing. It’s a great place to meet the local paddling community, to learn a little bit about the sport and take the first step in the right direction.”