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Big Ole PaddleFest set for July 15-16

United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties continue with Paddle 4 A Purpose

The 14-mile stand-up paddle boarders
Stand-up paddle boarders starting their 14-mile Big Ole SUPathon in the early morning in Alexandria several years ago. The Big Ole PaddleFest is set for July 15-16 in 2022.
(Contributed)
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ALEXANDRIA – For those ages 12 and up who enjoy canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, the Big Ole PaddleFest is an opportunity to explore the Alexandria Chain of Lakes on July 15 and 16.

“This is super unique to our area because it allows people from inside the community and outside communities to go on an adventure through this amazing chain of lakes that we have,” said Kendall Brickweg, marketing and communications coordinator for the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “Some people take it like it’s a race, but most people do it for fun. They come with a group of friends or buddies and get together, head to the chain, do a course and spend the afternoon out on the lake, going through some of those culverts and under some of the channels and bridges through the courses.”

Brickweg said that the event draws in people from out of state because it is something unique to do in the summertime.

“I feel like for most people who are returning, it’s their annual thing,” Brickweg said. “But for the people who are new, I would say there are people who are excited to get out on the lake and go explore the chain of lakes in a way that they haven't done before.”

On day one of the fest, there are three courses – Sven, which is 10 miles long and runs from Lake Ida’s Pilgrim Point and ends at the Arrowood Marina; Lena, which is a five-mile route that runs from Lake Brophy County Park and ends at the Arrowood Marina as well; and the 17-mile-long Big Ole route that begins at the east access point on Lake Miltona and ends at the Arrowood Marina.

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The Big Ole route begins at 8 a.m. while the Sven route begins at 10 a.m. and the Lena route starts at noon. The Long Prairie River Cruise will cap off the events for the fest. The route will begin at the Highway 29 Carlos Access point and will end at the Belle River Bridge. This cruise is eight miles long). All the courses require entry fees.

The planning for this year’s fest has been in the works for months.

“The planning really started in January,” Brickweg said. “Scott [Larson] is the guy who takes care of mapping the courses, as well as checking the water levels to see if they're high or low and if we're going to be able to get through some of the small waterways that connect to lakes and stuff like that.”

The benefits of the fest will go to the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties, and for the third time, this fest will include “Paddle 4 A Purpose.”

“So after you register for the event, you can set up a little account to raise money for it. And depending on what amount of money you raise, that money comes back to you as a cool incentive – a gift card to the Faction Boardshop to be able to go out and purchase some gear from them afterward,” Brickweg said. “That has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years. It’s a cool way to get people behind you and to say, ‘I’m paddling for a purpose for the United Way this year’ and to raise some money to go back to our community.”

For more information on the Big Ole PaddleFest, visit the event’s Facebook page or its event page of paddleguru.com .

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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