AuSable River Festival, including annual canoe race from Grayling to Oscoda, will not be conducted this year due to coronavirus situation in Michigan
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
No Classic Car Show. No Kids Day. No H.U.P. Race. No Arts & Crafts Show. No AuSable River Festival Parade. No AuSable River Canoe Marathon.
Local officials announced on Wednesday night, May 6, that the 2020 AuSable River Festival and the 2020 AuSable River Canoe Marathon have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan and the emergency efforts put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
The coronavirus – a disease that causes fever, shortness of breath, and coughing – has killed more than 70,000 people in the United States (as of May 6, according to the Centers For Disease Control). COVID-19 has caused the deaths of more than 4,200 people in the state of Michigan (as of May 6, according to www.michigan.gov).
“The decision to cancel this year’s festival and race festivities does not come easily, however, with the uncertainty that we are all facing at these times, concern for the health and safety of community members, volunteers, guests to our community, stability of the business community, along with the current guidelines set by the governor to re-open Michigan, we are unable to predict the state of our economy and health of our region for July 2020. Therefore, our team of festival and race officials, local authorities, and emergency management team made the tough decision to cancel the 2020 AuSable River Festival and 2020 Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon,” officials said in a press release announced on Wednesday.
The press release was signed by “AuSable River Festival Committee, Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committees, Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce, City of Grayling/Grayling Main Street, Crawford County Sheriff's Office, Crawford County Emergency Management.”
“We were hoping for a better outcome,” said Phil Weiler of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon Committee.
Weiler said the committee has to plan for a lot of different challenges associated with the AuSable Marathon, including financial considerations, logistics, and having enough volunteers, but “we never had to plan for a virus.”
“We can regroup and start planning for next year,” Weiler said.
The first AuSable River Canoe Marathon was conducted between Grayling and Oscoda in 1947. The year 2020 will mark the second time that the race has been cancelled in the event’s history. The AuSable River Canoe Marathon “was cancelled in 1969 because of several factors,” according to the race’s official website.
“It’s pretty surreal, 1969, 51 years ago was the last time there wasn’t (an AuSable River Canoe Marathon),” Weiler said. “Taking a deep breath now, trying to imagine the end of July without a race.”
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon is the second leg of the Triple Crown of Canoe Racing. The first leg, the General Clinton Canoe Regatta in New York, has also been cancelled for 2020. The General Clinton runs from Cooperstown to General Clinton Park in Bainbridge on the Susquehanna River during Memorial Day weekend. The third leg of the Triple Crown of Canoe Racing is La Classique Internationale De Canots De La Mauricie, a three-stage race held on Quebec’s St. Maurice River during Labor Day weekend in September. So far, no announcement has been made regarding the status of La Classique for 2020.
The AuSable River Festival joins a long list of northern Michigan events to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus.
According to multiple sources, Traverse City’s Cherry Festival, Gaylord’s Alpenfest, and Kalkaska’s Trout Festival, among others, have all been cancelled for 2020.
Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said some of the smaller events presented by various organizations during the AuSable River Festival may still be conducted by those groups; however, the Chamber of Commerce confirmed on Thursday that the “HUP Race, Kids Day, Parade, Arts and Crafts Show, Food Court, Lil Paddler Play Zone, Car Show, Beer Tent, and Main Stage are all cancelled.”
“There is a chance some of the other organizations may still hold something like they typically do that week,” Chamber of Commerce officials said.
The Spike’s Challenge – a race series that includes a C-2 event, C-2 sprints for position, and a C-1 race during the weekend prior to the AuSable Marathon – has also been cancelled for 2020, event organizers announced on Monday, May 11.
So far, Grayling Recreation Authority has not announced any changes with regard to its 10K/5K, an annual foot race held at Hanson Hills on the same day as the start of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon.
“We would like to thank our community members, vendors, past attendees, racers, volunteers, sponsors, and partners for their support. Without the support of all these players, the AuSable River Festival and Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon would not be possible,” according to Wednesday’s press release.