By Lisa Lumeh & George Harris
Yesterday, January 15, 2020, saw over a hundred spectators gathered at the bank of the Mesurado River at the Providence Island to witness the opening of the first National Canoe Marathon and Cultural Festival in post-war Liberia.
The four-day festival began with a canoe marathon that saw participants from Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Grand Bassa counties, all involved in a long stretch race from Providence Island, on the Mesurado River, to Riverside Resort on the Saint Paul River.
Melvin M. Lassana, one of the organizers of the event, said that his team’s dream is to put Liberian canoe racing on par with her African counterparts.
“We hope to make the Liberia Canoe Race as recognized as the other races in Africa, specifically like the Ghana race and the Dosi race in South Africa,” said Lassana. He added that the marathon also seeks to celebrate the role of canoes in Liberia’s transport sector.
“In Liberia, we have a lot of historical things that we are even lucky to interface with now. Like for example, when the settlers came to Liberia there was no other way to move about, except by canoe transport. So we thought it necessary to include canoe racing into our event to celebrate canoeists, celebrate fishermen,” said Lassana.
In addition to water sports, the event features cultural dances, local musical-artists, and ‘Made in Liberia’ products, ranging from beverages to traditional apparel.
According to Lassana, the event will end Saturday, January 19, 2020, at the Riverside Resort, near the Saint Paul Bridge, on the Bushrod Island.
Also, a veteran canoeists of the Liberia Canoe and Rowing Federation, Nyantee Sleh, has lauded the organizing body for the event. Sleh, who represented Liberia in 2005 All African Games in Senegal, told the Daily Observer that his federation has taken advantage of the event to recruit young people to represent Liberia in the future.
“This event is actually sensitizing our people about canoe racing. And I want to thank the organizing body for this. I think this will draw young people’s attention to canoe racing; therefore, we as a federation want to stick around to scout out young talents that can represent our country for other competitions in the near future,” Sleh explained.