While barely three dozen paddlers turned out for the first Tour De Coal community float event in 2005, more than 1,000 people made the 11-mile drift from the base of Upper Falls of the Coal River at Meadowood Park near Tornado to the Gateway Shopping Center in St. Albans last year, with a like amount expected during this year’s Tour, set to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“Back in the beginning, we only had about 40 people join us for the Tour De Coal,” said Kris Radford, president of the Coal River Group, the event’s founder, organizer and principal beneficiary. “The event was experimental at that time. We didn’t know if anyone would even come out.”
The experiment turned out to be a success, gradually becoming the state’s biggest non-whitewater paddling event.
“It’s not a race, but rather a community’s celebration of its most important natural resource — its rivers,” said Bill Currey, co-founder of the Coal River Group…