In a sure sign that spring is finally arriving, the annual Aroostook River Fun Run will take place Saturday, May 18.  This event offers a fun opportunity for individuals and families to get outside and enjoy the Aroostook River and the area around it. 
 
            The Aroostook River Fun Run began 12 years ago as a partnership between the Presque Isle and Washburn Rotary Clubs to celebrate the tremendous resource that connects the two communities, the Aroostook River.  That collaboration grew over the years to also include the Kiwanis Club of Presque Isle, Northern Light AR Gould Hospital and the Presque Isle Fish & Game Club. The event itself also grew to include more than just the traditional river race for paddlers in canoes and kayaks, with the addition of both a bike course and a 5K run/walk option.
 
           
Last year was an incredibly successful event, and organizers are hoping to equal or surpass that benchmark this year, according to Mark Putnam, Presque Isle Rotarian and one of the organizers of the event.  Putnam enjoys being on the river and regularly takes part in the event, either paddling the course ahead of time to ensure there are not unexpected obstacles or going down the river as a “sweeper” at the end of the event to ensure all participants safely make it to the end. He plans to take part again this year, this time wearing a GoPro camera as he goes so the group can capture the experience and share it on-line to promote the activity.
 
“This is an incredible way to enjoy the region, have fun and get active,” said Putnam.
 
Although they will start at different locations, paddlers, bikers, runners and walkers all get underway at 10:00 a.m. and all three courses end the Presque Isle Fish & Game Club.  A free barbecue lunch is provided to participants and volunteers, followed by the presentation of awards and door prizes.  Rides will be provided to participants back to their vehicles, including the transportation of canoes, kayaks, and bikes.
 
For those who want to paddle the river, they can canoe or kayak from Thomas Brewer Park in Washburn to the PI Fish & Game Club.  Participants can take part by themselves, with a partner or with their children.  Awards are provided in several categories. Life jackets are required for all who are in watercraft on the river.  Children under 10 must have an adult in the watercraft with them; children 10-13 must have an adult in a nearby watercraft.  Check in or event day registration for paddlers takes place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at Thomas Brewer Park. 
 
            Bikers will depart from the Presque Isle Bus Garage on Parsons Road and travel to Washburn and back, a route of about 20 miles, also ending at the PI Fish & Game Club.  This is a good opportunity for anyone who likes to bike and is ideal as a training opportunity for anyone taking place in Trek Across Maine. This is an untimed event.  Check in or event day registration for bikers takes place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the bus garage.
 
            A 5K for runners and walkers will start at Machias Savings Bank in Presque Isle, heading down some local streets and then the Parsons Road to the Fish & Game Club.  Awards will be presented to the top three finishers in each category.  Check in and event day registration is also from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the bank. 
 
            All events start at 10:00 a.m. The cost of registration is $15 for adults and $8 for children under the age of 13.  All children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.  Free event t-shirts will be available while supplies last.  New this year is the opportunity to sign up and pay online.  Those who register and pay ahead of time will not only be ensured a shirt but will have a streamlined check in process on event day.  To register online, go to www.pifg.org and click on the link for the Aroostook River Fun Run.
 
             In addition to the benefits of getting outdoor and active, this event supports worthy community causes each year.  This year, all proceeds will be divided evenly between two causes:  local veterans and the American Lung Association in support of Mel’s Trekkers, a group biking in Trek Across Maine in honor of Melanie Stewart-Ring.
 
            The donation is supported not just by the registration fee of participants, but by the generous support of several area businesses and organizations.  In addition to the five main event partners, sponsors this year include: Machias Savings Bank, Huber Engineered Woods LLC, North Maine Woods, Bike Board & Ski, Katahdin Trust Company, Walmart, and Marden’s. 
 
            Proceeds are also supplemented by the sale of raffle tickets for the chance to win a Cannondale Catalyst 3 bicycle (value $500), a GoPro (value $250), or a $100 gift certificate to the North Maine Woods.  Tickets are $1 each or six for $5.  Tickets can be purchased through a Rotarian or at the PI Fish & Game Club before noon on May 18.  The winning tickets will be drawn at the end of the Aroostook River Fun Run.