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Photo By Eamon Madigan

By Tony Duffy

The First Annual Heritage Harbor RIVER GAMES event, although late season was met with  80 degree temps, sunny skies and pressed out water! Let’s start by saying Heritage Harbor is one of the nicest properties in the Illinois River Basin. This brand new Marina accommodates all size vessels, has a yacht club, restaurant and many other amenities including tons of space for camping, luxury b&b accommodations and is just minutes from Riverview’s Quest Water Sports location for all your service and pro shop needs (www.heritageharborottawa.com , www.questwatersports.com) .

Our big Saturday event began with our campers that showed up Friday rolling out, launching their boats and getting geared up followed by a steady stream of day trippers launching and populating the shoreline. Chicago MasterCraft, Liquid Sports Online and Raging Buffalo Wakeboard School set up an onshore footprint to showcase their end of season inventory, prep riders for on water complimentary demos and give initial instruction to newcomers (www.chicagomastercraft.com, www.liquidsportsonline.com, www.ragingbuffalo.com).

As the sun got high in the sky, a steady queue of riders took advantage of the demo gear and free instruction aboard several MasterCraft boats launched for the clinics including riders ranging in age from 8 to 60 (I am guessing). Folks enjoyed onshore fitting of gear specific to them and their ability including use of wakeboards, wake skates and surfboards from top of the line manufacturers. They then were assigned to a boat with an experienced operator and progression coach suited to get the new riders started or help them work on their latest trick. Upon returning to the starting dock an onshore debrief was provided by coaches who assessed each rider as they made their passes from the starting dock. (Thanks to grassroots groups www.midwestmilitia.net, www.soulriders.com and www.all-actionsports.com for providing operators, coaches and promotion).

As the day progressed more boats launched and folks enjoyed grilled favorites, soft drinks and beer provided by Crawdad’s bar and grill, played volleyball and bags while the DJ spun a fine set of late summer fun cuts. As we moved toward sundown the sky popped with color as a team of jumpers from Skydive Chicago descended on the harbor trailing smoke landing among the crowd that had assembled to kick off the not so mini “Air and Water” show (www.skydivechicago.com). The skydivers bundled their chutes as a procession of thrilling barefoot, ski, wake surf and wakeboard athletes began their shoreline passes thrilling the crowd as the MC called the big tricks and crashes to wrap up the day. As the sun set, campfires ignited and the number of campers grew to take advantage of a similar Sunday forecast. The Day trippers trailered their boats and headed home. This is sure to become a calendar staple event for Family Fun on the water with accommodations and something for everyone from the young grom to the sophisticated day yachter. What a way to wrap up summer! Thanks to all who made it possible and to those who came out!