June 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Clinton River Classic draws canoeists from across the state

It's not everyday one sees dozens of canoeists and kayakers making their way down the Clinton River at once. But Saturday that was the lively scene during the second annual Clinton River Canoe Classic.

More than 100 professional canoeists and amateur kayakers took off from downtown Mount Clemens to compete in three races for a chance to win $20,000 in prizes. The water race attracts canoeists from across the Great Lakes region.

"It's better than our first year," said Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, who started the event in 2013 to promote awareness and beautification for the Clinton River Watershed area. "There are more competitors, more spectators. Next year will be our third year and I expect it to be better."

Two river clean ups took place before the race to ensure a smooth and safe passageway for canoeists, Marrocco said.

The competitors in the two- person canoe race Saturday afternoon included father/daughter, mother/ daughter and sister teams. There was also a solo race for kayakers during the afternoon and one for canoeists expected around 6 pm. Saturday.

The eventís proceeds will fund a $5,000 environmental project for the Clinton River watershed.

Carla Kolowich, of Eaton Rapids near Lansing, came to Mount Clemens to cheer for her husband, Ken, and son, Steve, who were competing separately. Racing has been in the family for decades, she said.

Kolowich said her son trains daily.

"They have to to compete," she said.

This year the canoe races are on a 15-mile course extended from last year's 9.5 miles. The route is scenic and stretches from the gazebo in downtown Mount Clemens west to Moravian reroutes back east to Bridgeview and west to the gazebo.

Rick Ensley, 60, of Clinton Township, came in second place in the kayak race. He said it took him about 38 minutes to finish the 3.6-mile course. It wasn't easy he said.

"It's like a second childhood," Ensley said of competing, something he's done for 40 years. "You just try to prove what you can do."

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Cathy Moultrie, of Clinton Twp., paddles in the Recreational Kayak Race with her 10-month-old Hound / Pointer dog named, 'Nellie.' / Todd McInturf / The Detroit News
Professionals participate in the Expert 1 / C-2 race on The Clinton River. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)