Nine years ago, Jason White was looking for a way to raise money to stock trout in Ten Mile Creek in Washington County, so he borrowed a fundraising idea used by other organizations — a raffle drawing based on the Pennsylvania Lottery.
"The idea proved not to be worth the effort we put into it," said Mr. White, 26, of Clarksville, who abandoned the raffle drawing after a one-time try.
The heavy spring flow of water in the creek gave him another idea — a canoe race, with trophies given to the canoeists who reached the finish line in the fastest time.
The first year, the race drew 17 canoes but no sponsors. However, it still raised $700, which translated into 300 10-inch trout purchased from the Laurel Hill Trout Farm in Rockwood, Somerset County.
Now in its eighth year, the race has grown so much that the board members of the Marianna Outdoorsmen Association are hoping to stock $10,000 worth of 7- to 30-inch rainbow, brook, brown and Palomino trout in a 4-mile stretch of Ten Mile Creek near Marianna on April 5. The race will be held April 26.
"While we have kids participate in the race, they are especially excited about helping us stock the trout," Mr. White said. "On stocking days, we can have as many as 40 cars lined up full of people wanting to help out."
Over the years, the canoe race has evolved by adding kayaks and "anything that floats" to the fray, with prizes awarded for best decorated boat and team costumes. Spectators have seen themes including Hawaiian motifs, complete with grass skirts, an artificial palm at the bow and a toy hog roasting on a spit at the stern. Prizes include placards, gift cards and fishing gear and accessories.
"The race isn’t really about prizes, it’s about having fun," Mr. White said.
To enter the race, each participant must register and pay a $30 fee per person. Participants can use their own canoe, kayak or floating creation and the association is renting seven kayaks at a cost of $30 each. Each registrant will also get an official green and yellow Marianna Canoe Race T-shirt, Eagle Claw fishing supplies, stickers and writing pens. To register: 724-344-5153.
The race will begin at 11 a.m. April 26 at Main Street in Marianna. Two canoes will follow downstream one minute apart. Start times will be assigned according to the order in which the registrations come in. To determine the winners, each boat will be timed at the start and finish lines of the 3.2-mile course.
The end of the race doesn’t signal the end of the event. On property at the finish line owned by Dale Wyels and Lee Pryor, four country and rock bands will provide live entertainment from noon to 8 p.m.
Mr. White’s mother, Michelle, will head a crew of volunteer cooks selling food such as barbecued pork chops, sloppy joes, hamburgers, hot dogs, pepperoni rolls, pasta and macaroni salads, and baked beans.
"Everything is homemade," board member Sandy Thomas of Marianna said.
Those not participating in the race can enter the grounds for $7.
Board member Ed White of Marianna estimates that this year’s race will cost about $19,000 for security, insurance, entertainment, T-shirts and giveaways, advertising and Froggy Radio, which will broadcast live at the starting line from 10 a.m. to noon.
"We have a wonderful board who’ve taken up the slack and are doing a lot of the work this year since I was injured last February on my job in the coal mines," Mr. White said. "And they all love the opportunity of being able to give area kids a chance to fish close to home."
"In the future, we’d like to offer scholarships to high school and college students and set up a disaster relief program. That’s why we’re always looking for support from sponsors to help us grow."
Correction (March 21, 2014): An earlier version of this story reported an incorrect date for the canoe race.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com.