SNOW HILL – A third annual paddle sports festival will return to Snow Hill next weekend.
On June 16, stand-up paddleboarders, kayakers and surfski enthusiasts will have their chance to compete in both short- and long-distance races in the third annual “Return to Goat Island” Paddle Sports Festival, organized by Walk on Water.
This year’s festival features multiple paddle races, food and beer vendors, yoga, live music, vendors, demonstrations and more.
While the day’s festivities will be held in Byrd Park, all of the races will begin and end in the waters around Goat Island, situated at the center of the Pocomoke River across from the park and home to the island’s lone goat.
Michael Day, Snow Hill’s economic development coordinator, said it is not clear how goats arrived at Goats Island, but said the area makes for a unique race setting.
“It has a lot of folklore and history associated with it,” he said. “It’s really neat.”
Walk on Water co-owner Ron Gossard said unlike paddle races that take place in open water, race courses along the Pocomoke River feature large trees, lily pads and other unique views.
“It’s an awesome, protected area,” he said.
Gossard said the event will feature a 17-mile race between Goat Island and Milburn Landing – open to solo paddlers and teams of two – a three-mile race around Goat Island and a kids race. All racers will have a chance at winning $5,000 in cash and prizes.
“Our 17-mile race is one of the longer races on the east coast,” he said. “It’s more of a distance race for people who want to check it off their bucket list.”
Gossard noted that visitors will also have the opportunity to partake in festival activities and other amenities.
“It’s a family friendly and spectator-friendly event,” he said.
Day said spectators can take advantage of nearby trails, campgrounds, canoe and kayak rentals, pontoon boat rides and picnic areas, or can simply view the race from Byrd Park.
“Everyone that comes loves the atmosphere,” he said.
Day said signature events like “Return to Goat Island” drive the local economy. Last year’s race, for example, attracted visitors from New York, New Jersey and Virginia and more than 100 participants.
“We are growing with it,” he said. “We’re hoping people come and have a great time in Snow Hill and come back.”
For more information, visit returntogoatisland.com. To register, visit paddleguru.com/races/ReturntoGoatIsland2018. Same-day registration will not be offered.
“It’s a fun time in the park, especially for stand-up paddleboarders and people who want to learn about it,” Day said.