Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Spotlight on Newnan for Paddle Georgia event
by Sarah Fay Campbell
A celebration of all things “river” is planned in downtown Newnan on Wednesday.
The Chattahoochee Bend River Fest will feature canoe tug-of-war, music, dancing, informational booths, and a film festival and mini-art show. It will be held from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The event is partly a celebration to welcome the approximately 400 participants in the “Paddle Georgia” trip down the Chattahoochee River. But it’s also a time to simply have fun – and to introduce Cowetans and others to what Chattahoochee Bend State Park has to offer.
“It’s going to be cool. It should have something for everybody,” said Greg Hyde, River Committee chair for the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend.
The tug-of-war competition, as well as kayak demonstrations, will be held in a giant pool erected on South Court Square. The tug of war is expected to begin at 6:30. Before then, visitors can test drive kayaks in a giant pool.
Paddle Georgia is an annual event that takes hundreds of men, women and children in kayaks and canoes down a Georgia river. This year, it is being held on the Chattahoochee River.
The journey begins today at Settles Bridge in Suwannee. Paddlers will travel 15 to 20 miles a day, and they’ll camp as a group at high schools and other facilities.
On Wednesday, the group will leave from the Campbellton Road ramp and float to North Georgia Turf Farm near Whitesburg. They’ll camp out at Newnan High School and party in downtown Newnan. On Thursday, they’ll put back in at North Georgia Turf Farm and paddle down to Chattahoochee Bend. They’ll spend Thursday night at Newnan High School as well, and Friday morning they will put back in at Chattahoochee Bend for the last leg of the journey, which ends in Franklin.
Typically, the paddlers are fed three meals a day by Paddle Georgia, according Hyde. But Wednesday, they’ll have a night on the town and eat in local restaurants.
Plenty of Paddle Georgia participants are expected to compete in the tug-of-war, but hopes are to also have lots of local competitors, Hyde said. There will be kayak tug-of-war, which is one-on-one, and canoes with three participants per canoe. A few of the event’s sponsors are going to put together teams, Hyde said.
Hyde said he’d love to see some local competition going – maybe some county versus city agencies. “We haven’t formally invited them to do that but we’d like to see some people in the city put together some teams and give it a try,” Hyde said.
The Environmental Club at Newnan High School is assisting with the tug-of-war. “We’re asking for, but not requiring, $10 donations to the Environmental Club per team, if they would like to help them out,” Hyde said.
The Johnson Brothers Music Revue will perform live, with DJ Corey Powell to follow.
Hyde said he was told “these Paddle Georgia people like to party and dance."
Informational booths will be set up by various groups, including Chattahoochee Bend State Park, the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and the Georgia River Network, which puts on Paddle Georgia. Riverkeeper Sally Bethea is expected to be on hand. The Coweta County Fire Department’s water rescue team will also be on hand.
There will also be informational booths manned by Piedmont Newnan Hospital and Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern.
The film festival will take place upstairs at the Carnegie – in the air conditioning. There will be four films, three of which directly relate to the Chattahoochee.
“The Chattahoochee – Reimagine our River” will play from 6 to 6:24 p.m. At 6:34 will be “Chattahoochee Unplugged,” the story of how the city of Columbus built the world’s largest urban whitewater course.
“Big Muddy Moose – Missouri River SUP” is the tale of one man’s journey down the Missouri River on a stand up paddle board. It runs from 7:41 to 8:26. The last movie, running from 8:36 to 9:26, is “Who Owns Water?” In the film, two brothers travel the length of the Chattahoochee to try and answer the question: Who owns the water flowing through three states that have argued over the issue for over 20 years?
Paddle Georgia is headed up each year by river enthusiast Joe Cook. Hyde said he and Cook were talking last fall about Paddle Georgia. There’s always a big party one night of the trip, and they talked about having this year’s in Newnan.
“It was an opportunity that the Friends of the Bend thought was a fantastic way to show off the city and the park,” Hyde said. And a way to “raise awareness of the park to the people of Coweta County who may not know that much about it.”
People come from far and wide to participate in trail building and river cleanup events at Chattahoochee Bend, but “there are a lot of people in the county who still aren’t aware of the opportunities” at the state park, located along the Chattahoochee in western Coweta.