Despite a heavy rain and swifter waters than usual, more than 80 canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts from three states and 35 cities had a great time paddling down Hatchet Creek in Coosa County, May 17-18 as part of the Hatchet Creek Festival.
Roger Vines, coordinator of the event, said the two-day event was a huge success. "It took a village to pull this off, but it was a great event. So many happy smiling people made it all worthwhile. There is just something about getting outside, floating on the water, seeing beautiful flowers, hearing live music, playing games, setting up camp and sitting around a campfire. It brings out the best in people."
Robert Harris came from Winder Ga., for the event. He heard about it from a friend of a friend who posted the information on the Georgia Canoeing Association website. "I had an excellent time. It was one of the best paddles of my paddler's career. "I will come back," he added.
Vines says more than 50 volunteers helped with the festivities and planning. "Volunteers helped with all kinds of duties – registration, transporting camping equipment, parking cars, launching boats, hauling food, scraping roads, playing music, serving meals, cutting grass, building the campfire, setting up equipment, entertaining and cleaning up."
The Hatchet Creek Festival project was funded through a Rural Alabama Initiative grant in cooperation with sponsors and landowners. Sponsors included The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, The Economic and Community Development Institute at Auburn University, The Weogufka Center Songwriters, the Coosa County Sheriff's Department, Commissioner Fred Brooks, Smooth Hits, Popeye's Chicken, the Charles Weldon Family, Tommy and Beverly Bass and Sally Holland.
The festival brought some economic and tourism benefits to Coosa County. Participants spent more than $4,400 in the county. Several stores reported selling supplies to participants and one boat rental place rented several boats. The festival also provided incentive for participants to return to the county to float the creek and see the Cahaba lilies.
"I've been excited about this festival ever since Roger shared it with me," said Coosa County Commissioner Fred Brooks. Hatchet Creek is a great tourism asset to Coosa County. This event provided a good opportunity for people in and out of the county to learn about the county and the creek and enjoy both," Brooks said. " Economically, several of our county convenience stores saw an increase in sales as people coming in for the festival bought camping supplies. "
Vines says he is still getting calls and emails thanking him for the event. People also are calling to get a copy of the map of the creek, which Extension produced in 2011 through a grant from the Coosa Valley Conservation and Development Council to assist visitors in planning safe and enjoyable float trips.
"Terry Mitchell, Coosa County probate judge from Rockford wrote," Roger you, the sponsors and volunteers did a fantastic job putting the event together, and taking care of all the participants. It was a wonderful event for Hatchet Creek and for Coosa County."
"I'll be telling people about Hatchet Creek and yes, I will be back," said Harriett King from Fairhope. She has been kayaking for 12 years, and actually manages a store in Fairhope that sells kayaks. King, who is originally from Sylacauga has seen the creek many times driving on 231 bridge. "My dad loved Hatchet Creek and he intended to paddle it but never did. When I heard about the festival, I decided to paddle it in his memory."
When asked what aspect of the trip they liked the most, participants said, the beautiful creek, fellowship, entertainment, the Cahaba lilies, camping, food and the exciting paddling.
This was David McDade's first trip down Hatchet Creek. "My wife and I will be doing this again. It is a beautiful paddle and we highly recommend it to paddlers and kayakers. I will be back to do some fishing too," McDade said.
"The Hatchet Creek Festival is a prime example of how small, rural counties can bring tourism to their counties by capitalizing on their natural and historical resources," said Tom Chesnutt, a tourism specialist with ACES.
Hatchet Creek flows from the northwest corner of Coosa County down to where it enters the Coosa River on Mitchell Lake.
Visit www.aces.edu/hatchetcreek for more information.
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