For the fifth time since 2003, the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak Championships have come to Warren County and gone.
About 200 U.S. Canoe Association (USCA) paddlers competed, most of them several times through the week.
The events - sprints at Chapman State Park and marathons and other events on the Allegheny River - went off well and were a boon to the local economy.
"We were able to provide the USCA a very efficient and enjoyable national championship week," said Jim Decker, president and CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI).
Decker said he received numerous positive comments about the level of hospitality shown to the visitors.
The time and effort is appreciated by local paddlers as well as visitors.
"The WCCBI and COT (Council on Tourism) put in a lot of hard work," Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers (ARCP) member Paul Gruber said. "Many positive things occurred to have a successful Nationals week here."
"We hosted several hundred visitors to our community for a period of six days, with many of them coming in to town ahead of time to practice," Decker said. "One only had to drive around the county over the past week to see first-hand that we had visitors."
Those visitors were not the sort to cause trouble, according to Gruber. "These athletes are the most down-to-earth people I have ever encountered," he said. "They openly give newer paddlers training tips and are happy to mingle with anyone who wishes to talk with them. The Warren area is fortunate to have them spend nearly a week in town."
"A majority of participants did stay in Warren for the entire event," Decker said. "Whether camping or staying in a hotel, this results in them leaving their hard-earned money here in Warren in any number of locations. The event brought immediate impact to many local businesses including hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, retail shops, and service businesses such as laundromats and gas stations."
Decker said he and COT Director John Papalia Jr. have to consider the total impact to the community in making the decision on whether or not to submit an application to host the event again.
"The decision to pursue hosting the event in 2014, one which has to be made by October of this year, will be made following assessment of the financial outcome of this event as well as an assessment of the availability of resources to properly administer the event," Decker said.
Papalia scouted the opposition at the 2011 Nationals in Newaygo, Mich. "It was the first year Newaygo hosted the event and the level of community enthusiasm was extremely high," Decker said. "They did a very nice job of getting their community engaged with the event, which was well-received by the paddlers."
Newaygo will host Nationals again in 2013.
Since 1968, no community other than Warren has hosted the national championships more than three times.
"We have our staunch supporters within the USCA ranks and remain proud of how Warren has administered this event for a record five times," Decker said.
The repeat visits are good for Warren, but may not be good for the paddlers.
Gruber said attendance at nationals was at an all-time low this year and that the frequency with which the events have returned here may have been a leading cause.
"These folks plan their summer vacations around Nationals every year," he said. "USCA paddlers would like to see other venues during their yearly Nationals vacation."
That is not to say the paddlers do not like Warren County.
"A majority of paddlers always come, no matter where Nationals are held," Gruber said. "Many of the paddlers would return to Warren in a heartbeat and most are very happy with the venue."
"Many variables affect who attend Nationals from year to year," he said.
Some top paddlers went to a race in Canada that offered cash prizes. A race in Michigan also cut into attendance here.
After two drownings this summer one on the Allegheny Reservoir and the other in the river downstream from Kinzua Dam the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, always a partner in the Nationals efforts here, required personal flotation devices be worn by competitors while they were on Corps waters. For past races, that rule had been waived.
"Much has been said about the decision," Decker said. "The PFD issue... drew strong criticism from some key paddling areas of the country. While the wearing of PFDs was seen by some paddlers as a hindrance to their personal comfort and performance, we support the decision made to enforce a rule which has been in force for years and which also supports one of the USCA's objectives, which is to promote waterway safety."
"We remain very appreciative of the support provided by the Corps of Engineers in supporting and assisting us in making these events possible," Decker said.
Gruber said some paddlers' concerns were on matters that were up to the USCA to handle.
Economics were also a factor.
"The numbers could be down simply because of gas costs," Gruber said.
"There is also the over-riding issue of the economic condition many areas of the country are in," Decker said.