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‘The Grand’ brings rafting fun and a block party

Uptown Columbus Inc. will host the Grand Paddle, the largest single day of whitewater paddling in Columbus this weekend.
Uptown Columbus Inc. will host the Grand Paddle, the largest single day of whitewater paddling in Columbus this weekend. rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

It is called “The Grand” and Dan Gilbert says it is a fitting name for the event happening Saturday in Columbus.

“This is really going to be fantastic,” said the owner of Whitewater Express.

Officially, it is the Grand Columbus Whitewater Paddle & Block Party and Saturday will be the largest single-day event of the rafting season.

Gilbert said Whitewater Express will attempt to get 1,000 rafters down the Chattahoochee River in a single day. He is bringing in extra rafts and extra workers for the event, which attracts numerous rafters from around Georgia and elsewhere.

This is the third year the event has been held here. It begins at 9 a.m.

The event is held in partnership with the Georgia Conservancy. Founded in 1967, the Georgia Conservancy is a statewide, nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect Georgia’s natural resources through advocacy, engagement and collaboration.

“Georgia Conservancy will receive some of the money raised,” Gilbert said.

In 2014, Whitewater Express had more than 25,000 customers and more than 30,000 last year. Gilbert said the number by the end of this year will be 35,000 rafters.

“We are pleased from the response,” Gilbert said.

Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday there will be greatly discounted rafting trips starting at $25 person.

The “Challenge” runs at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. are $45.

“The rafting in the main attraction but there is more,” Gilbert said. “There is beer and lots of music.”

The music begins Friday at a free block party on Broadway between 10th Street and 11th Street from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fire Mountain, the Kristina Murray Band and Great Peacock will perform.

Sweetwater Brewing Company will be providing alcoholic beverages.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, the Powerhouse Paddler Party will be held on the banks of the Chattahoochee. The band, Sailing to Denver, will provide music as people watch rafters go through the Waveshaper Rapid.

To make a rafting reservation or to receive more information, stop by Whitewater Express at 1000 Bay Ave. or call 706-321-4720.

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer

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