HAWTHORN — An estimated 160 entrants floated down Redbank Creek from Summerville to Hawthorn last Sunday,. The third-annual Hawthorn Volunteer Fire Department Kayak Poker Run is a major fundraiser for the organization, attracting participants from as far away as Lancaster County.
The event’s official starting time was 8 a.m., with the final kayaks entering the water at 1 p.m. A leisurely float rather than a race, the time to reach the Hawthorn boat ramp varied from four to perhaps six hours, according to volunteer Bryan Watkins. After completing the 12-mile trip, entrants were ferried back to their vehicles in Summerville by fire department volunteers.
The first arrivals hit the Hawthorn boat-launch area at about 1 p.m. Tacie Ciccone and Rob Marshall from New Brighton, Beaver County, grinned widely as they trudged up the ramp in a sprinkle of rain.
New Bethlehem residents Curt and Dani Emings and Stevie McCauley Burns were the second kayaking party to arrive about 20 minutes later. They said that they had taken their time making the trip, stopping for a bite of lunch along the way.
Other entrants were even more leisurely, with many taking along fishing tackle and dropping a line into the water to see what was biting that day. Their arrival times were unknown, but Watkins said that many would not arrive in Hawthorn until after 5 p.m.
Hansel Lucas, part owner of Performance Kayaks in Brookville and one of the event’s organizers, was pleased by the turnout.
“We supply kayaks for people who did not bring their own,” he said, “and we donated the kayak being raffled off today.”
His wife, Jody, said that she provides support for the business owned by Hansel and his father, and her husband handles the advertising and promotion tasks for the Hawthorn event.
“We have a social media presence on Instagram and Facebook,” she said. “I think we got something like 1,500 hits on Facebook alone for today’s event.”
She described the Lancaster County residents as being a family group of men and their sons enjoying a boys-weekend together.
“They took a side trip to the Monongahela and Ohiopyle State Park, but we were their real goal,” she said.
Beneath the picnic pavilion outside the soccer fields beside Redbank Creek, other volunteers were busy filling out forms, selling raffle tickets and serving food from a grill during intermittent sprinkles.
Entrants kept arriving sporadically through the remainder of the afternoon.