McKenzie guides launching festivities for new season

In a warm-up for opening day the following week, McKenzie River guides will roll out their boats for inspections and fire up their Dutch ovens for a cook-off at Hendricks Bridge Park on Saturday, April 17.

Drift Boat Rodeo
Some boats floating in the 2009 Wooden Boat Parade on the McKenie River

Families and friends of river guides, along with interested drop-ins from the community, are all invited to the first-ever Drift Boat Rodeo/Cook-off.

The free-parking day begins with drift-boat inspections by the Oregon State Police from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Boats with a passing grade will receive a sticker indicating compliance with state marine laws for adequate safety features and gear.

Members of the public also may have their boats inspected by police and the marine board from noon to 3 p.m.

Also joining the Drift Boat Rodeo will be the Oregon State Marine Board, which will peddling Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permits. The $5 annual permit, now required for all boats, raises funds for protecting Oregon waterways from destructive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil, New Zealand mud snails, zebra mussels and other nasty invaders.

Lane County Parks is waiving day-use fees at Hendricks Park for the rodeo/cook-off, but will have staff on hand to sell annual permits for parking at county boat ramps and parks.

Riverside cook-off
Sometime the Spring mornings are cooler than the water giving us an interesting mist.  This view is from our front lawn looking West

Open to all members of the McKenzie River Guides Association, the baking and grilling judging begins at 1 p.m. The river chefs will compete in three categories: appetizers, main entrées and desserts. Each dish must be prepared over fire or charcoal in a Dutch oven, approved fire pan or existing barbecue pit at the park.

“The public will be encouraged to attend, to see how we cook in Dutch ovens and fire pans on the river,” says river guide and cook-off organizer Jon Payne. The park’s shelter will be available in event of rain.

Cook-off judges will include Steve Brown, a DJ at New Country 93, and likely another local radio personality. Points will be up for grabs in three categories: taste (1-20), presentation (1-15) and simplicity (1-10).

Most points wins. Prizes will be awarded in each cook-off category: appetizer, main entrée and dessert. Payne’s hoping for 20 or so river guides to compete in the cook-off, but hints he may be hard to beat.

“I have several recipes I’ve been perfecting,” he says. “I’m going to lay it all on the line and serve it that day.”

A fee of $10 per entry in the cook-off will benefit McKenzie River Guides Association community programs, namely scholarships and acquiring life jackets for free use by the public when boating on the McKenzie.

Another community outreach spin at the rodeo/cook-off will be allowing guests to sign a petition supporting hatchery trout in the McKenzie River. Brochures spelling out the MRGA’s position on the issue will be circulated.

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