When the cancellation of the first two canoe races of the year was announced last week, longtime race director Dale Cross hinted that paddlers would find a way for those events — the St. George River Race and the Passagassawakeag River Race — to survive.
He was right. And he’s still the race director.
On Tuesday, Cross said he and his wife were teaming up with former Waldo County Y program director Karen Varney and her husband, along with the nonprofit Operation Game Thief, to run the races.
“[Varney] just retired a couple of months ago, and we’ve done these races together for 25 years,” Cross said. “We both started to step back and wanted to have someone else run it, but that just wasn’t going to happen. So we had to step up and do it.”
The 41st annual St. George race will be held on Saturday, March 28, while the 47th annual Passagassawakeag race is set for Saturday, April 4.
Cross, who served as executive director of the Waldo County Y for years, retired from that position in September of 2018. Through Cross and Varney, the Y served as the race organizer for decades.Earlier this month the Y announced that it didn’t have any staff members with the expertise needed to direct those races, and bowed out as the organizing body.
The cancellations were announced in a Facebook post on the Waldo County YMCA’s page.
The races will benefit Maine Operation Game Thief, a private nonprofit organization that supports the work of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Maine Warden Service, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Marine Patrol and Wildlife Crime Stoppers. Operation Game Thief pays rewards to citizens who turn in poachers or people who unlawfully introduce non-native fish species into the state’s waters.
Cross, whose son Aaron is a Maine game warden, said the partnership with Operation Game Thief made perfect sense.
“We were looking for a nonprofit that would be an organization that would really fit for a fundraiser, and they are supporting the races 110 percent,” Cross said.
A new Facebook page devoted to the events said that label “reflects the excitement and exhilaration of the first open river whitewater of spring that so many paddlers look forward to every year.”