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Wild Hog Canoe Race begins its fourth decade

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41st edition is April 28

By Sean Arnold

It’s a grueling 15-mile trek down the Waccasassa River, where canoers and kayakers paddle, drag, lift, wade and swim their way through the elements, including occasional snakes and alligators.

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The Wild Hog Canoe Race, a fundraiser for the Arc of Levy County, which assists Levy residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, launches in Bronson at the Waccasassa Bridge on State Road 24, and finishes up at the event property where the Waccassa crosses U.S. 19, north of Gulf Hammock.

Despite the challenging terrain, many who participant in the annual spring event are hooked for life.

This year’s race takes place on April 28, with pre-race registration from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. A rule review begins at 9:15, followed by the start of the race at 9:30.

The water level was down in last year’s race, which marked its 40th anniversary and set a new record in boaters, making it a particularly difficult iteration. Race coordinator Keith Maynard says that may be causing some reluctance among potential returning participants, as pre-race sign-ups are down some from last year.

The Waccassa levels are up this year, however, so Maynard expects a much smoother ride.

“When you have a year like that where it’s really, really, really low, it discourages a lot of people and they don’t want to do it again,” Maynard said. “The river changes every year, and this is going to be a good year.”

The ziplines, bounce house, mechanical bulls, pony rides and other forms of entertainment all return this year, along with local vendors and food, and there will also be more parking available as the back of the event property is being cleared.

Last year, the race set new marks with more than 70 sponsors and 133 boats, leading to a donation check of $21,000. Despite lower pre-registration levels, which Maynard says have picked up in recent weeks, the donation is expected to set a new record, thanks to the group’s yard sales held throughout the year as well as an uptick in sponsorships.

“Ninety percent of (the sponsors) get right back on board and we get a lot of new ones too,” Maynard said. “Wade Custom Homes is one of our main sponsors every year and this year they donated $2,500. Money-wise, it’s going to be a record year again, I think, but I don’t know about participants.”

Boater registration and sponsorships are accepted all the way until the start of the race. For more information, visit http://www.wildhogcanoerace.com or email wkmaynard@aol.com.