Great Dock Canoe Race Celebrates 36 Years of ‘Real Naples’ Hospitality and Fun
Save the Date! Saturday May12 The Great Dock Canoe Race Fills Naples Bay with ‘Animal House’ Theme
It’s both a fun and proud day, one inspired by the unity of a restaurant owner and his opening staff. It’s a flip-flop wearin’ good time and a down-to-earth party. It’s a annual sporting event that shatters the stereotype of what is perceived to be the ‘Real Naples’.
Since 1976 The Great Dock Canoe Race has become more than just a tradition, it has become the most anticipated ‘festival’ in all of Southwest Florida. It began as a ‘staff and friends’ party marking the end of a successful first season for Vin DePasquale and The Dock Restaurant but three decades later it’s the one event that is revered and respected by both locals and visitors. It’s not the Naples Winter Wine Festival and it’s not a PGA Event but it is the the party and a nautical competition that is most representative of life in Southwest Florida.
Held the second Saturday every May, ‘The Canoe Race’ now draws thousands of spectators on land and Bay to watch competitors including corporate icons, ambitious amateurs, and practically professional grade canoe enthusiasts. A parade of theme-decorated canoes is also a crowd favorite and this year’s theme ‘Animal House’ is sure to bring out the most creative Southwest Florida racers.
For many, The 2012 Dock Canoe Race is old school and for others its one of Naples’ best welcome mats, an event that eclipses age and economics and one that told the locals it was okay to come out again. And it’s been all that… for well into a second generation. The Saturday in May after ‘The Derby’ is the ‘Canoe Race’ every Real Naples person knows it. A Saturday that has brought people to Naples and brought locals together for 35 years and counting.
“This is one event that’s just for the fun of it,” founder Vin DePasquale comments. “People of all ages, resident and visitors alike, tell us all the time what a good time they have here. It’s a lot of work – but it’s very rewarding.”
DePasquale co-emcees the event with the longtime ‘sports voice’ of Southwest Florida, Joe Klimas who will be joined by J. Dudley Goodlette who will be serving as Grand Marshall of this year’s Race. Dudley Goodlette is a Naples High School Alumni, and well liked and respected member of the Naples Community. He served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1998-2006 and was Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009-2010. This past January the Edison Board of Trustees of Edison State College named J. Dudley Goodlette Interim District President.
Every year, the Race has a theme, and this year’s ‘Animal House‘ theme will provide plenty of inspiration to decorate
canoes to compete for the $1,000 prize best-dressed . Theme boats will parade around Crayton Cove starting at 11:00 am.
The race sponsored by the Dock Restaurant, and the 2012 Race is co-sponsored by their sister restaurant the Riverwalk at Tin City. An annual and important element of the Great Dock Canoe Race is the $5,000 grant awarded to a selected worthy and local children’s charity.
This year the Naples Zoo will be the beneficiary and funds donated by the Great Dock Canoe Race will make it possible for Naples Zoo to expand the exciting and highly interactive daily conservation education programs that annually reach over 110,000 children, ages 12 and under, in Naples and beyond
The Race is run in three heats. First up at 11:45 am is the “Tippycanoe VIP Sprint,” which features canoes paddled by principals of local organizations in a madcap dash through a 700-yard course. Two traditional races follow on the full 3-mile course. The first, which starts at 12:45, features “Ambitious Amateurs,” who are racing largely for the fun of it. “Next Generation” teams, which pair a 12-17 year old with his or her parent or guardian, are encouraged to compete in this heat, as well as our newest category “Truly Tenacious” (both canoeists aged 65 or older) The other race starts at 1:45 and showcases “Practically Professionals,” some of whom train year-round for the competition.
Trophies or ribbons are awarded to winners of both heats, and to three “Next Generation” and
three “Truly Tenacious” teams. A final award, the “Broken Paddle” Award for sportsmanship, honors
the late Chuck Bruce, first winner of the award and a great contributor to the Race over the years.
Winners’ names are hand-painted by artist Jerry Vallez onto a broken paddle, which is added to the
permanent collection at The Dock restaurant.
Race entry forms are available on line at www.GreatDockCanoeRace.com as well as at the Dock
Restaurant, the Riverwalk at Tin City, Cambier and Fleischmann Parks, and the Chamber Visitors Center
at 900 5th Avenue South (Four Corners). Unless competing in the “Next Generation” class, entrants must
be 18 years or older, and the registration fee for each 2-person team is $30, which includes a T-shirt for
each competitor. A limited number of rental canoes is available by calling 404-6718.
Trolley service from off-site parking areas along 8th St. South at 6th Avenue South and 8th Avenue
South will be available from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, running every 15 minutes. Spectator boats on Naples
Bay must stay within the designated area, and safe boating rules will be enforced. Spectators are asked
to avoid leaving any litter including water balloons in the Bay to protect the environment for native sea
turtles, dolphins and manatees.
More race information is available at www.GreatDockCanoeRace.com.
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