This past weekend, the Great Dock Canoe Race was held on the Gordon River. This event personifies the Naples zest for life. It is widely watched by spectators on land and sea. Having boats tie off to each other to watch the competition is a given. Vying for a viewing spot on the City Dock is also a tradition.
The roots of this great event go back over forty years. Vin DePasquale was instrumental in getting this event off the ground. Originally, this event was thrown as a celebration of a successful season for The Dock Restaurant. Vin held this event annually for forty years. It became a must attend event for the locals as well as many of our visitors.
There are currently several races that take place at this local event. You have the canoeing Practically Professionals race. The winning time for this elite race will be under twenty minutes. You also have the Ambitious Amateurs race. The winner of this race will be north of twenty minutes. Paddleboarding races have also been added to this annual event.
One of the traditions each year is to present “The Broken Paddle Award “to the competitor team that exhibits the best sportsmanship. The nucleus of this award goes back to the very first Great Dock Canoe Race when one of the competitors, Chuck Bruce, actually broke his paddle in the event!
On May 14, 2016, it looked like this event was being retired. The theme of the event that year was fittingly “The Last Dance “. It was being billed that year as “The 40th and Final “Great Dock Canoe Race. I remember getting to the event early in hopes of buying a tee shirt that commemorated this historic day. To my surprise, the tee shirts were sold out immediately. They even closed the city dock periodically that day because the crowd size swelled to the point that safety crews were concerned about how much weight the old city dock could support!
When Vin DePasquale was stepping away from the forty year event in 2016, he hoped that someone else would pick it up. I am pleased to say that the Naples Jaycees picked up the event and continued this great Naples tradition.
Events like the Great Dock Canoe Race, the Swamp Buggy races, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, The Third Street Christmas Walk, the Fifth Avenue Christmas Parade and the national Pickleball championships are just a few of the activities that make Naples special. If you are looking for something to do, Naples Florida is the place. Welcome to paradise.
Mike Hughes, Vice President
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