Coordinating 1,500 competitors at the Mountain Sports Festival may seem a bit like herding cats, but the momentum of the event—plus a tight-knit community of nationwide and regional athletes—makes the task a whole lot easier.
James Trombly, a first-time event host for Diamond Brand’s “Against the Flow” race—where boaters, as the title suggests, fight their way upstream—says he’s using a laid-back style while rounding up competitors.
“I’m taking the approach to it that I get to set the tone for my own event,” he says of the race, which will take place at the popular Ledges Whitewater Park near Weaverville. As for spectators, Trombly says modestly, “I’m kind of hoping that there might be people in town that want to go outside.”
Trombly’s relaxed for a good reason: Festival organizers, namely the city of Asheville, do most of the event’s promotion. One way to get the word out is to trade promotional space with other events across the country, says festival coordinator Christen McNamara. By having a presence at outdoor roundups like the Whisky Run in Prescott, Ariz., MSF manages to spark the interest of far-flung outdoor freaks. Ads in national and regional publications also pump up the turnout. And there’s plenty of homegrown interest, given WNC’s enthusiastic community of outdoor athletes and accompanying gawkers.
But festival organizers can’t hold the whole thing down alone. Thus, the recruitment of sponsors and hosts like Trombly, who must, among other things, secure $1 million insurance policies for their events and get releases signed by athletes.
Still, Trombly seems content to go with the flow, even if his event races against it. As a MSF neophyte, he says he’s unsure what kind of showing he’ll get from competitors—but he expects they’ll number somewhere between seven and 20.
“I haven’t felt a bunch of pressure,” he says. “Mountain Sports Festival does most of the legwork on promotion.”
Like water ripples, the word about “Against the Flow” is getting out there. Trombly says three or four local paddlers have already inquired about it. He might just see a few more boats on the French Broad than he expects.