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Kayaking to the music on the Great Miami a new thing in Hamilton

Happy concertgoers on Thursday were kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding on the Great Miami River to the peppy dance-pop music of Bruno Mars tribute band Uptown Funk.

In the first of what organizers hope will become a regular thing next concert season, about 30 people took advantage of the free on-water offerings next to the city’s RiversEdge amphitheater at Marcum Park.

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The Great Miami Rowing Center, which provided the watercraft, and city of Hamilton, which added some volunteers, plan to offer a similar event during the Aug. 23 concert by Free Fallin, a Tom Petty tribute band.

Next summer, there may be even more offerings, although those may not be free, said Caroline Meiner, program coordinator for paddle sports at the rowing center.

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When on the water, “you feel like you’re at the concert — it’s not like going out and just kind of paddling around and listening to nature sounds,” Meiner said.

“At no point did you feel like, ‘Oh, I’m missing the concert,’ or ‘I’m out here doing a different thing,’” Meiner added. “It just felt like, ‘I’m listening to the concert, if I paddle north just a little bit, I can pretty much see what’s going on up there, and it was great.”

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The echoing of the concert from the concrete flood-levee walls along the shorelines added to the experience, she said.

“The sound out on the water is wonderful,” she said. “You feel it, while you hear it. So that’s really cool.”

Some groups also brought their own kayaks, and listened to the music from there, she said.

Adding fun events on the Great Miami River was a top recommendation of the new Hamilton River Plan.

Meanwhile, state and regional officials are envisioning that what they call the Great Miami Riverway, a 99-mile stretch from Sidney through Hamilton, could become a major tourist draw, with camping and other events along the river and the biking/hiking trail along its shoreline.

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“I thought it went great,” Meiner said about Thursday’s event, which made use of 10 single-person kayaks, four tandem kayaks and four stand-up paddle-boards. Three people from the city and four from the rowing center staffed the event.

“It was really our first big event for the public,” she said. About 30 people participated.

“It was awesome,” said Liz Hayden, Hamilton’s planning director. “I think we would have had close to 50 people, but we had to end early because of the weather.”

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“It was an opportunity for people, who maybe haven’t been on our river before, to come down and get on the river for the first time, in a safe way, because we have life vests, and Caroline was doing training with people,” Hayden said.

“We just wanted to offer this out to the community, and get people out on the water,” Meiner said. “It’s been really cool to work with the city as they’re developing, promoting and growing their river master plan, and one way that GMRC can really help them with this great plan they’ve started to make is just to get people and participating in water sports, and learning to trust this river again, and learn smart, safe ways to go out on the water and have fun.”

With the paddleboards, many hesitated to try, fearing falls into the river, although nobody took a spill, Meiner said.

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