Records broken at annual Gunflint Canoe Races

Julie Henricksson


The normally placid Gunflint Lodge shoreline was bustling with action on July 15 as the Gunflint Canoe Races got under way. Top: Liz Smalley and Dan Ahrendt, representing Tuscarora Lodge celebrate at the finish of their race. Middle: The competition was fierce on the shoreline too, with minnow racing action. Bottom: The Gunflint Volunteer Fire Department, which benefits from the event, showed its gratitude by helping cool off the crowd. 
Photos by Jim Jamieson The normally placid Gunflint Lodge shoreline was bustling with action on July 15 as the Gunflint Canoe Races got under way. Top: Liz Smalley and Dan Ahrendt, representing Tuscarora Lodge celebrate at the finish of their race. Middle: The competition was fierce on the shoreline too, with minnow racing action. Bottom: The Gunflint Volunteer Fire Department, which benefits from the event, showed its gratitude by helping cool off the crowd. Photos by Jim Jamieson There were lots of firsts at this year’s Gunflint Trail Canoe Races held on the Gunflint Lodge waterfront July 15, and not just among the 91 racers.

Canoe Race Chair Chris Steele announced that record proceeds of over $20,000 will be given to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department to continue their service to protect the 192 square miles of territory along the Trail in matters of fire, emergency and rescue.

This year’s raffle Grand Prize was a Current Designs Kestrel Kayak 140 and all tickets were sold. Locating the winner of this year’s grand prize kayak, Clare Cardinal-Pell, was a puzzle. Clare and husband attended the races but left early to tend to their dogs before announcement of the kayak winner. They hadn’t heard the news.

Clare’s ticket stub listed their Iowa home address, not their Loon Lake summer home. The day after the races Clare remembered she should check for messages. Her husband took on the chore and excitedly passed on the stunning news. Clare’s husband is a jokester so she didn’t believe him until she confirmed the call was for real.

Another new glitch. The kayak displayed at Trail Center previous to the races had been damaged and a new one had to be ordered so there has been a wait for Clare to paddle her new boat.

Back to the races. Perfect canoeing weather. From the first long distance race through the many age and gender categories, festive crowds cheered on their favorites. The highlight and last race of the evening was gunnel pumping (where the canoeist mounts the boat’s gunnels and hopefully pumps the craft to the finish line). Quite a balance and steering challenge.

The women produced a winner. But there were no male finishers! All were disqualified.

Sue and Bruce Kerfoot are to be thanked for offering their waterfront for this year’s races and for the past years. About 100 volunteers put together their assignments to make this year’s event the most successful ever and produced the most financial support for the fire department.

The evening was a great place for neighbors to greet neighbors. Lots of activities filled pre-race hours such as minnow racing for kids, viewing raffle prizes, enjoying delicious food under the big tent, bidding on silent auction items and much more. Live auction bidding brought in big bucks to be donated to the fire department.

Two Adirondack chairs, a chainsaw, a lovely dark wood vase were some of the prizes won by bidders. And of course, Bonnie Ward’s third “Up North” quilt depicting North Woods icons was popular. Auctions of group dinners and Gallagher’s Island picnics were also popular money makers.

The races are sponsored by the Gunflint-Seagull-Saganaga- Property Owners Associations. “Members of the community working together make this historical summer event happen!” Chris Steele reminds us.


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