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Saturday, May 1, 1999 -- Mannington
Great Buffalo Canoe Race
Story by Don Parks with photos by Lisa Selmon and Don Parks.

[Coverage/Recap w/Pics] [Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]

It's not the size of the paddle...
it's the fun in it!
They were up-the-creek with plenty of paddles at the 4th Annual Great Buffalo Canoe Race in Mannington, on Saturday, May 1st. The brain-child of Okey Starsick, and brought to life with the help of his family and the late Bob Dunkin, the race has been a continued success.

The tone of the race is one of good times and celebration as the roughly 14 mile trek from Mannington to Fairmont, on Buffalo Creek, brings out a wealth of local support. With some racing competitively for a shot at the $100 first prize, many more are there just to enjoy the trip and the awards picnic that follows on Sunday.

Okey and Stan
Okey and Stan know a thing or two about handling a canoe
Getting a little help by a few releases from some of the seven dams that are situated above Mannington, a reasonable water level can always be expected. The only thing that can stop the fun is a flood, and that's exactly what happened in 1998. After some very close calls and the rescue of several boaters, the race was stopped and rerun a few weeks later.

This years run had water suitable for everyone with spectacular spring weather bringing out a tremendous crowd of spectators. Although the onlookers situated themselves all along the banks and bridges of Buffalo Creek, the crowd favorite is certainly Carnegie Falls situated a little before the halfway point in the race.

Gettin' Wet
Scott and Andy Morris abandon ship above Carnegie Falls
Although some chose to portage around the several foot drop, many couldn't resist the temptation and the cheers from the enthusiastic spectators. With varying levels of success, the crowd roared with delight at every overturned canoe and thundered with approval at each successful run. The rest of the trip down Buffalo Creek was easily navigated with just a few sections where low water demanded a little push or carry.

With the race starting at 10:00am the canoes headed out at one minute intervals. The race consisted of all two-person teams and the start was made a little interesting by requiring the teams to begin on the creek bank and to climb into their canoes as part of the race.

The father and son team of Tom and TJ King demonstrate championship form
By the time the canoes reached Carnegie Falls, the teams of Tom and TJ King and Tom Graham and Brian Bland had moved to the front after starting in the 17th and 16th positions, respectively. The Graham and Bland team were defending their title from the previous year while the father and son King team was trying to regain the title they had won two years ago.

When the leaders reached Farmington around the halfway point, the Kings had established a lead. By the time they reached Katy, another mile or so downstream, they were out of sight of the the chasing Graham and Bland team. At the finish, it was the Kings who regained their title with a time of 3 hours and 35 minutes. They now stake claim as the only two-time champs of the Great Buffalo Canoe Race, and they promise to defend again in 2000. But, Graham and Bland were never far behind as they finished just two minutes off the winning pace to capture second.

Vanessa and Deborah raced unopposed in the all female class
The racing was extremely close for third place as Matt and Andrew Starsick ended in a tie with Kenneth Shearer and Tom Myers in a time of 4:01, and several more teams were just minutes behind. Although everyone races for the same prizes, kudos go out to Stan Robinson and Karen Layne, the first mixed doubles team, and Vanessa Hixenbaugh and Deborah Bock, the first (and only) all female team.

A big thank you is extended for all the small town hospitality provided by the folks in Mannington and the neighborhoods along Buffalo Creek. A special thanks goes out to the WV Police Reserve who tirelessly provide the necessary support to ensure the event runs smooth and is safe for everyone. Be sure to join in the festivities next year as the creek promises to be running, the fans will be cheering, and the fun will again go on for hours. There is even talk of adding a kayak class for you solo types.