First WNC OutdoorAthlon festival goers get in on outdoor action
It was all outdoor fun last weekend, as the first annual WNC OutdoorAthlon made its debut at Cullasaja Park in Franklin.
Four months in the making, the Athlon showcased Franklin’s outdoor resources and culture by holding an event exhibiting a number of outdoor activities such as free fly-fishing, kayaking and rock climbing lessons, as well as introductory lessons on biking, hiking, disc golf, and pilates. The Oct. 8 and 9 event was held under clear skies and warm autumn weather.
Six competitive events were included in the festivities, with guests participating in the area’s first ever adventure triathlon, ultimate frisbee team tournament, disc golf skills competition contest, a cornhole tournament and a 5k run.
Shawn Marcie, a sophomore cross-country runner at Franklin High School, won the festival’s 5K race with a time of 17:40. Susan Miller was the first female to cross the finish line, completing the course in just under 25 minutes. Grace Moore showed up the boys in the Kid’s Duathlon, taking first place in the race.
The Athlon was also host to numerous vendors and musical guests grateful for the exposure.
“It’s really nice to be able to get some exposure,” said Harold Moe, of Green Leaf Canoe Company. “Events like these allow us to get our names out there and show people what we are doing, and hopefully stir some interest.”
Amid the outdoor adventures, a plethora of musical talent took the main stage at the Athlon. Local bands such as The Unawarewulves, The Corbitt Brothers and Nitrograss played alongside renowned musician Zach Deputy, who has performed at such festivals as Bonnaroo and Mountain Jam.
“I support anything where people are going outside collectively” said Deputy on Wednesday. “Outdoor events like that are my favorite to go to and I met some really nice people. It was really fun. The fried apple pies were awesome.” Deputy added that he would definitely be willing to play the event again next year, even though he lost his wallet on the disc golf course.
The event proved informative as well, with members of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society (NCBTS) and the Nantahala Hiking club present at the Athlon to talk to the public about their organizations.
Joe Pilkington and Walter Wingfield, of NCBTS, were showcasing the new trail maps which took more than three years to complete. The project was funded from a grant provided by the Blue Ridge Heritage Area. According to Wingfield, the project was time-consuming, as cartographers mapped out the new GPS coordinates by hand. “We spent a lot of time on this, but we ended up with a great finished product and we actually won an award from a professional cartographers organization,” he said.
According to event organizer Rob Gasbarro, the Athlon had approximately 1,700 visitors over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Gasbarro maintained that the turnout was strong despite appearing sparse in the ten acre field.
“There’s been no other festival that has made no attempt to capture a demographic like this,” said Gasbarro, proud of the event’s muster. “People came here from Chattanooga or Greenville. For a first year event planned in just four months, it was a great turnout.”
“We really had a great time,” said Sharon Goolsby, of Waynesville, who brought her two children to the event. “Who ever knew rock climbing was so tough?”
All in all, the event was a success according to Gasbarro, who is already planning the second annual Athlon. “Our goal is to be self-sufficient and will aim not to seek funds from TDA or TDC. Next year it’s going to be more of the same stuff, but bigger and better,” he said.