When hundreds of paddlers come to Warren County, there is plenty for local organizers to do.
The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI) is the agency that hosts the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Association National Championship event when it comes to Warren.
With four previous USCA Nationals events behind him, WCCBI President and CEO Jim Decker is a seasoned veteran.
Council on Tourism Director John Papalia Jr. has one prior USCA Nationals under his belt, so he, too, knows the ropes. "A great deal of planning and preparation goes into making this a successful event," Papalia said. "Most of our side would not be possible without a tremendous amount of support from our local community."
"Jim and John of the WCCBI will have most things set up for us before we arrive and we rely heavily on those guys - our hosts - to make things run smoothly," U.S. Canoe and Kayak Association (USCA) President Susan Williams said. "They do a great job."
"They do an amazing amount of work," she said. "Their work started a year ago when they had to locate a place for our semi-annual meeting and the spaghetti supper for 600 people, not to mention the army of volunteers it takes to manage all these venues and events."
"I don't know all that they do because I don't see it every day," Williams said. "All I know is that when I arrive, they're ready for us, from racer packets and information and registration, to a paddler's welcome center, shuttle buses, signage, and vendor areas."
"A better question would be, 'What don't they do?'" Williams said of WCCBI. "We could not do this caliber and this extensive of a national event without them."
WCCBI also coordinates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - a key element to Warren's five successful USCA bids. The water level in the river can be set at an appropriate level for the marathons thanks to the cooperation of the Corps.
Papalia and Decker work with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Chapman State Park for the sprint events.
A much smaller body of water is part of the attraction this year. The City of Warren Pool will be the site of family night, with a showing of "Pirates of the Caribbean" on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
The shuttle system is run with the help of Brinks to get racers and their boats from Betts Park to Kinzua Dam, Papalia said.
While Decker and Papalia run the show locally, they are far from alone in getting the work done.
A host of local volunteers handle things like registration, timing, and buoy watching during the races.
"Joan Stitzinger and John Kersey have taken the lead in the area of data entry and timing," Papalia said. "Both have been involved with this in the past."
"Paddlers can register the night before the races each day so we are responsible for having sufficient volunteers to take registration forms, distribute T-shirts, and check for USCA membership," he said.
The Glade Swiftwater Rescue Unit is brought in to make sure racers are safe, especially at the rapids near United Refinery.
"As much as we could not put this event on without Jim and John, we really, really can't put a National Championship caliber competition on without our volunteers," Williams said. "We are truly grateful for all they do."
The races begin Tuesday at Chapman State Park. Sprints are Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday's orienteering (actual location secret until race day) and biathlon are based at Betts Park. Marathons - following the river from Kinzua Dam to Betts - are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.