NAPLES — The 36th annual Great Dock Canoe Race had a D-Day, a Bluto, a handful of Otters and even a Weasel, as dozens of racers paddled their way around Naples Bay on Saturday.
Touted as the celebration that marks the end of the seasonal exodus of Collier’s part-time residents, approximately 5,000 spectators lined the pier along Crayton Cove or floated along on boats around the three-mile course to celebrate and cheer on the racers.
“I was at the first one 36 years ago, and even though I’ve missed a couple over the years, it is delightful to be able to be out here today. Blowing off steam is a good thing and this is always such a community event is just so much darned fun,” said Dudley Goodlette, the former state representative and grand marshal of the event.
Paddlers and spectators alike paid homage to Bluto, Otter and the rest of the members of the Delta as part of this year’s theme for the festivities, which was based on the 1978 wild college setting of the cult-classic movie “Animal House.”
Even though the races taking part on the water are the centerpiece for the action, the event’s organizers admit that the day is more about the members of the community coming together to have a good time.
“It’s a good way to get the people down to the water so that they can enjoy themselves on a day like this,” event founder Vin DePasquale said. “We happened to have a great day out here today with a great breeze and the proceeds from the event supports children’s programs in Collier County. Undoubtedly I think the themes are what captures and puts so much fun into the event.”
This year’s race helped raise $5,000 for the Naples Zoo children’s educational programs.
The tandem of Rod Price and Anita Allen claimed victory in the day’s main event in the “practically professionals” class with a time of 19:31. Although the team of Casey and Peter Jenks actually crossed the finish line first, Price and Allen were awarded first because of a handicap given for female paddlers.
Brothers Bill and John Ervin, racing for a 25th consecutive year, defended their title in the “ambitious amateur” division by completing the course in 22:47.
“It was very tough,” John Ervin said of the win. “We led the whole race and you can’t tell what is going on when you are in front but fortunately my brother was behind me telling me to go, go, go.”
Justin and Jeff Stuller, racing on behalf of Estero River Outfitters, were the winners in the VIP sprint event. Ed and Sandra Barreto took the 65 and older category while Mathew and Demi DeRose won the under-18 class.
Among those in attendance Saturday was comedian and self-described weasel, Pauly Shore, who is in town to perform at the Off the Hook Comedy Club in Marco Island this weekend.
“My buddy brought me here a couple of years ago for the boat races and I became pretty famous for my Speedo,” the “Bio-Dome” actor said of the event. “I might take my clothes off and put on my Speedos.”
“We’re real pleased with the things we are doing. The fact that this is embraced by the community gives us the momentum to keep doing it every year,” DePasquale added. “I’m just thankful for everyone that came out and enjoyed this.”
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Tippycanoe VIP Sprint
1. Ju. Stuller/Je. Stuller (Estero River Outfitters) 3:33
2. Bauer/Quisey (City of Naples) 4:17
3. Farmer/Oliver (Keystone Development) 5:04
1. B. Ervin/J. Ervin 22:47
2. DePalo/Marzucco 23:02
3. Kelsey/Greenling 24:06
Truly Tenacious (65+)
1. E. Barreto/S. Barreto 29:45
2. Brutto/Shifflet 31:00
Next Generation (12-17)
1. M. DeRose/D. DeRose 25:07
2. T. Rosal/ R. Rosal 29:19
3. C. Maritato/H. Maritato 29:29
1. Price/Allen 19:31
2. C. Jenks/P. Jenks 19:39
3. Gardella/Morteliaro 19:49
Broken Paddle Sportsmanship Award
Jim DePalo and John Marzucco
Top Theme Boat
Marty Durham and Nermin Clark