Raft race back to former glory

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Alabama River Raft Race will return this Labor Day to its former glory. Blackbelt Benefit Group organizers have been granted a permit from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to allow homemade rafts in this year’s race down the Alabama River.

That’s great news for the fundraiser, which benefits Grow Selma’s community garden. The number of entrants was down last year when allow canoes or kayaks were allowed. Let’s be honest, the homemade rafts were what made the raft race.

In all of this, it should be said the ALEA shouldn’t be painted as the bad guys in some kind of “us versus them” conflict. We apologize if our reporting gave people that idea. The marine police were just doing their job — to make sure people stay safe while out enjoying time on the water, and we applaud them for that effort.

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ALEA has granted the permit, and now it’s time for Selma to step up and make sure to keep the event going for future years.

Organizers say they will be extremely safety conscious this year and want to remind people that the raft race is a family friendly event.

Registration will be limited to 150 people and poorly built watercraft will be turned away before hitting the water during inspections. We will report more on those guidelines in future edition of the Times-Journal.

We also salute Blackbelt Benefit Group organizers for their dedication to getting the permit this year. It could have been easy to give up after last year, but they stuck with it and are getting ahead of the game now to make sure everyone has a safe time and understands the rules.

Other communities, like Demopolis’ with its Christmas on the River, use their waterways for tourism. Plus, many residents have fond memories of the raft race back in the day.

That nostalgia plus the tourist draw has the potential to make the raft race a regional event that draws people from all over.

We hope citizens will support the event and help to make it family friendly, safe and well-organized so the 2017 raft race isn’t the last one.