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Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Spectators and participants line the riverbank near the old Wells Street Bridge on Saturday during RiverGames, part of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival.

Drought doesn’t stop fun on water

Races, balloon fight part of RiverGames

Canoe racers visit while firefighters battle the police during RiverGames on the St. Marys River.
Sean Fitzpatrick, front, and Richard Cunningham celebrate winning the RiverGames’ recreation canoe race.

– The weather could not have been better on the river Saturday afternoon for the RiverGames near the old Wells Street Bridge on the St. Marys River.

The games, presented by Frontier Communications as part of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival, featured a recreational canoe race, as well as a more serious competition in a U.S. Canoe Association-sanctioned event.

Fort Wayne firefighters launched water balloons across the water at Fort Wayne police officers and families in canoes participated in an obstacle course.

It was the second year for the event at its current location, said Taylor Jaxtheimer, a festival board member.

Twenty recreational paddlers signed up for the race, which ran from the bridge to Don Hall’s Old Gas House Restaurant, a distance of about 1 1/2 miles.

The more serious competitors, in their sleek carbon-fiber boats that seemed to barely weigh anything, went about six miles for their race, according to the event website.

The USCA-sanctioned race was won by 51-year-old Steve Horney of Huntertown who flew in ahead of the recreational racers.

Richard Cunningham, 44, of Fort Wayne and Sean Fitzpatrick, 38, of Columbia City, won the recreational race. Their success did not surprise them as both are experienced with canoes, and they also used their own canoe, a much-lighter Kevlar boat than the heavier rental canoes provided to the others.

At least four canoes in the recreational race were filled with Taiwanese students studying at IPFW. They had never canoed before, and their attempts drew smiles and applause from those on the bank when they finished.

Wei Chuan, 20, gave a “thumbs up” when he was asked whether he enjoyed it. The two others in his canoe – Yu Shian and Chi Wen, both 19 – said they had fun but were tired.

As the Summit City Soaker event finished up the obstacle course, the awards presentation for the water balloon war between the city’s police and fire departments degenerated into an on-shore water balloon fight, with festival volunteers getting into the act.

The fire department won the water balloon war.