Kids play hard at MSF

Kids adore adventures, and this year’s Mountain Sports Festival will deliver a variety of kid-centric outdoor adventures and activities. “Every kid should go, because it’s fun and you get to be outdoors.”

So says 8-year-old Flat Rock resident Samuel Ray-Alverson, a first-time participant in several events at last year’s MSF. He grooved on the dirt boarding (kind of like skate boarding on a trail), the beanbag toss and the kayak race, he says. How did it feel to be the youngest participant in the kayak race? “I liked it, because I got to row over and throw a potato in the bucket and then row back. It was my first time on the French Broad,” says Samuel. “I was just a little nervous, because it’s wider and deeper than the Green River.”

In Western North Carolina, we raise kids who know their rivers.

Meanwhile, the number and variety of kid events at the festival increases each year, making for three days of nonstop fun.

“My passion in life is to get kids excited about the outdoors,” says festival director Christen McNamara. There’s an ultimate tourney for youngsters, Iron Kids competitions, wall climbs, Hula-Hooping and more. After all, event organizers are grooming the next generation of outdoor-sports enthusiasts.

Another festival goal is helping parents get involved with their kids’ fitness. Melanie MacNeil of Asheville Hoops will run a kids’ Hula-Hoop workshop that includes games and hoop challenges. “Kids already know how to play,” she says. “But the best part is seeing the parents connect with their kids through hoops. We often get entire families trying out hoops.”

New this year are scavenger hunts, Kids Strong Man competitions and a Kids Triathlon.

The triathlon consists of a short “ducky” (inflatable kayak) paddle on the river, a ride around the bike track and a one-mile run. Participants need to bring their own bikes and helmets. The Kids Strong Man competitions include a 100-meter dash, a balloon toss and—to show off those developing biceps—a rock-throwing challenge.

“We’re really excited about the triathlon,” says volunteer Kat Andrew, who’s coordinating the kids’ events. “It’s not too competitive but should just be fun.” The triathlon is one of the few events with an age requirement: Kids must be 8 or older to compete.

“Over the past few years, we’ve really increased the kids’ event opportunities, as well as keeping them free or low-cost so they’re available to everyone,” notes McNamara. “Maybe the next Iron Kids champ will someday participate in [the] Ironman [championship in Hawaii]. You never know in Asheville. Or maybe they’ll just walk away with a smile from their accomplishment. I’m pretty happy with a smile!”

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