Innaugural Catgut Paddle brings races, food, music

Innaugural Catgut Paddle brings...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - La Crosse is home to a new outdoor event showcasing paddle races, activities, food and music.

Hosted by the city of La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry, the inaugural Catgut Paddle kicked off Saturday morning at Veterans Freedom Park.

While there were severe weather concerns Friday, organizers said they lucked out this weekend.

"It kinda played out in our favor. No storms, the water didn't rise too much, so it's perfect conditions for paddlers today,” special events coordinator Tori Blumenstein said.

After putting up with this week's rain and flooding, one might think people would want a break from all the water. However, eventgoers said this was the just the right kind of water to dive into.

"It was calm,” St. Paul resident Mary Pettifort said. She and her husband, Walter, won entry into a paddle race in a contest.

The Catgut Paddle, a 4-mile fun paddle and 14-mile canoe kayak race, took about 150 paddlers through the Mississippi and Black Rivers.

"Awesome, it felt great,” La Crosse resident Kat Johnson said of the water. She and her partner, Andrew Wiegand, finished third in the 4-mile race.

"It really tired me out; I'm like shaking from paddling,” Pettifort said. “It was fun though."

The race introduces paddlers to views they just can't get from land.

"You're in these places nobody else is,” Wiegand said.

"It really just gets people on the water,” Blumenstein said. “Beginners, people who have been doing it for years, it really brings people together to celebrate our beautiful waterways in La Crosse."

Blumenstein said the name 'Catgut' refers to the Catgut Slough located on the waterway racers paddled through.

Winner of the 4-mile race on his paddleboard, Hudson resident Paul Martel spends plenty of time out on the water, but this was his first time in La Crosse.

"I figured, let me see what it's like down here,” he said. “It's perfect water for standup paddleboarding."

For those who prefer steady land, there's music, food and activities.

"I hope they do it again next year,” Martel said, and Catgut organizers say that's the plan.

“Bigger and better in the next years to come,” Blumenstein said.

The Catgut Paddle offered events including paddleboard jousting and paddleboard yoga before wrapping up Saturday afternoon.

Money raised from the event goes to the Youth Enrichment Association, helping area kids participate in sports programs and summer camps.

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