A fleet of kayaks and canoes gathered around the convergence of Pittsburgh's three rivers to break a world record-- because we are a competitive type here. But organizers and participants also wanted to highlight to the world, on the occasion of World Environment Day, how far the city's waters have come since the heavy industrial days. The Allegheny Front's Kate Malongowski was in the water with hundreds of other paddlers.
OPEN: A fleet of kayaks and canoes gathered around the convergence of Pittsburgh's three rivers to break a world record-- because we are a competitive type here. But organizers and participants also wanted to highlight to the world, on the occasion of World Environment Day, how far the city's waters have come since the heavy industrial days. The Allegheny Front's Kate Malongowski was in the water with hundreds of other paddlers.
KATE: It was an overcast morning on the North Shore in downtown Pittsburgh. But the ominous skies didn't reflect the sunny attitude on the river, where paddlers were eager to break a Guinness book record BY assembling the world's largest boat flotilla.
By 10 AM, Tim Miller and his 10-year-old son Jacob sat beside their red canoe, waiting for the okay from officials to get in the water. Miller calmed his son by patting him on the shoulder.
MILLER: "He keeps bugging me to get the boat in the water; he doesn't wanna wait."
KATE: Despite the stormy weather, Miller said they traveled from Export, Pennsylvania. They usually paddle in places like Keystone State Park and farther up the Allegheny.
MILLER: "We've always boated on the upper Allegheny, not necessarily here downtown, but I've spent a lot of time power boating down here. The rivers are a lot cleaner. The city in general has changed its attitude towards outdoor recreation."
KATE: After officials said it was okay to be on the water, the Millers and hundreds of other boaters pushed their canoes and kayaks from the shore.
On the water, it looked more like a New Years celebration than a refreshing row. It was hard to go more than a few feet without bumping into other boaters. Beach balls bounced from boat to boat, some paddlers wore purple and pink wigs, and a lot of people pulled out noisemakers noisemakers, including air horns, cowbells and whistles.
One guy even had his own one-man band, carrying a harmonica, recorder and a horn on board in his canoe.
For it to count for the Guiness record, the group of kayaks and canoes had to be bunched together for at least 30 seconds. Just to be sure, the officials timed the flotilla three times.
Back on shore and in dry clothes, Tim and Jacob Miller gushed about the experience.
MILLER: "We had a blast, and met a lot of great people."
KATE: Venture Outdoors Program Director Jon Lucadamo witnessed the event from the Point and was really pleased with the outcome.
LUCADAMO: "As soon as we were rafted and counted off, all of a sudden the skies opened up. I guess that was Mother Nature's way of saying 'Congratulations'."
KATE: Lucadamo said it could take up to three months for Guinness to confirm that the world record has been broken. He estimated that about 1,800 boats were out on the river and counted in the event.