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Whitewater enthusiasts gearing up for Stonycreek Rendezvous

May 16—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — For whitewater enthusiasts, the Stonycreek Rendezvous is the thrill you're looking for.

Sponsored by Benscreek Canoe Club, the event will be held Friday through Sunday at Greenhouse Park, Route 403, Tire Hill.

Now in its 33rd year, the three-day event is designed to showcase the whitewater opportunities available in the area to seasoned boaters and newcomers to the sport.

"For three years in a row now, we've been averaging 1,000 people coming in to the event, so we've seen growth over these past three years," said Steve Podratsky, vice present of the Benscreek Canoe Club. "The word is continuing to get out in terms of what our area has to offer. It's a nice community, family-oriented event that's low stress, and there's something for everyone."

The Stonycreek Rendezvous attracts boaters and rafters to participate in one of the best whitewater rivers in the eastern United States, with rapids rated from Class I (beginner) to Class V (expert).

To ensure adequate water levels, the release valve at the Quemahoning Reservoir will be opened at 11 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Podratsky said the rendezvous brings people in from more than a dozen states, including Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area.

"Seventy percent of the rendezvous people are coming from greater than 50 miles away," he said.

At 6 p.m. Friday, a Class II/III downriver sprint race will be held from Carpenter's Park to Greenhouse Park. It consists of kayakers, open boaters and canoeists.

"We're the fourth and last leg of Headwaters Racing Series, so that attracts more racers to our event because it's really gotten competitive," Podratsky said. "It's a 4.5-mile race and Class II whitewater, so it kind of fits the bill for a lot of people. With it finishing at Greenhouse Park, there's a fair amount of people there who can watch the last quarter- to half-mile of the race."

Registration cost is $20.

Due to liability issues, if the Ferndale river gauge is five feet or more, the race will be canceled.

The annual freestyle rodeo will kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the park.

Judging will be based on trick difficulty, variety and style in classes for beginners, intermediates and advanced.

"They have 90 seconds to do as many tricks on the wave that they can," Podratsky said. "We open that up to the public free of charge to come in and watch it. They can sit on the rocks 10 feet away from these kayakers and watch them do their thing."

The rendezvous will wrap up Sunday, when boaters can take to the water for casual activities.

Trips through the Stonycreek canyon will be timed with the releases to ensure an optimal experience.

There will be vendors offering boating gear and demonstrations.

Food vendors will be on hand, along with seven varieties of beer and seltzers available for purchase.

In addition, there will be a gear raffle.

Musical entertainment will include Loose Change from 4 to 7 p.m. and Shiva Skydriver from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, and Thorn Bush from 4 to 7 p.m. and The Hillbilly Biscuits from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Proceeds from the rendezvous will be benefit Benscreek Canoe Club projects.

Admission is $10 for a weekend pass.

Tent camping at Greenhouse Park will be available for $10 per person for the weekend.

Firewood will be available on site through the Boy Scouts for $3 per bundle.

For more information, visit www.benscreekcanoeclub.com.