If Environment Canada's sunny weekend weather forecast holds true, Saturday should be a perfect day to continue a Thanksgiving weekend tradition along the Bedford Channel.
The Fort Langley Canoe Club's annual cranberry races, held in conjunction with the 17th annual Fort Langley Cranberry Festival, is expected to be held under clear blue skies and with an unobstructed orb of sunshine warming the paddlers.
That's great news for the estimated 20 teams expected to participate this year. The paddlers are coming from Vancouver and as far away as Cultus Lake and Chilliwack, noted race registrar Sue Tuttle.
Fort Langley Canoe Club commodore Cheryl MacIntosh said the purpose behind the cranberry races is to promote paddling in Fort Langley, and to support the Cranberry Festival.
The first cranberry race was held in 1996, with a few teams of paddlers steaming along the Fraser River from Chilliwack to Fort Langley.
Each team has 10 people, including steerspersons.
"The event has changed a lot over the years," MacIntosh said.
Over the next several years, the FLCC held small races that launched at the Fort campground. They were simple races that community members were welcome to join for some fun on the water.
The event have grown as time went on, starting with no official teams, but just combining whoever wanted to paddle in a boat.
It grew to a half dozen teams entered as complete crews, and now averages between 20 to 24 teams each year.
The event has grown in popularity in the paddling community and is now quite competitive, MacIntosh said.
Teams enter from all over the Fraser Valley, many from neighbouring community paddling clubs, and other teams use the event as annual family outings.
The format has changed, too. Races are much more visible for spectators than when crews used to paddle from Chilliwack to Fort Langley. A course is set up on both sides of the Haldi Bridge. Some events involve zany challenges such as retrieving pumpkins or drinking cranberry juice.
It's not too late to get your oar into the water, either as a team member or an individual.
For paddlers who want to register on their own, Tuttle will try to find a seat for them on a team boat.
To download a team registration form, visit www.fortlangleycanoeclub.ca, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paddling experience is not necessary, Tuttle said.
"I know of one person who paddled for the first time at Cranberry and now she is not only a member of the club, but has joined a dragonboat team," Tuttle said.
"We encouraged community members to enter regardless of their paddling experience," MacIntosh added.
The first heat starts at 10 a.m. There will be two final races: one at 2: 30 p.m. and the other at 3 p.m.
Each team gets three races.
@ Copyright 2013