Kick off summer with family fun at the Whitewater Center

Fireworks will boom over the U.S. National Whitewater Center to cap its Memorial Day celebration.
Fireworks will boom over the U.S. National Whitewater Center to cap its Memorial Day celebration. U.S. National Whitewater Center

Run, fun and hopefully sun are all in store for the Memorial Day celebration at the U.S. National Whitewater Center Sunday.

There’s plenty of action to engage the entire family during the all-day event, from morning trail runs to a cornhole tournament and live music in the afternoon to evening fireworks.

In between, those seeking water-based adventures can paddleboard along the Catawba River, raft or kayak in the sophisticated whitewater channel system, or simply sit back and marvel at all the roaring H2O flowing about.

Land-based activities include navigating the mid-air challenge course tucked under the center’s expansive tree canopy (climbers scoot across plank and rope bridges, up cargo net ladders and perch amongst the tree tops at heights up to 60 feet); zipline runs; and hiking the center’s nature trails, which offer birdwatchers and daydreamers alike a calmer, yet no less enjoyable, pursuit to enjoy their day.

New this year are 140 additional acres acquired by the Whitewater Center, complementing its more than 400 existing acres. Eleven miles of newly developed hiking trails have been added, with more on the way, according to Eric Osterhus, USNWC brand manager.

The Memorial Day Trail Race kicks off at 9 a.m. with a simultaneous start for the 5- and 8-mile runs that wind through the trail system. Framed by acres of woodlands, the route snakes along the Catawba and promises plenty of challenge. While the trails are well-worn and relatively flat, runners are advised to wear off-road trail shoes.

A paired-bracket-style cornhole tournament begins at 2 p.m. just outside the trail center. Pick your partner carefully, as prestige, prizes and bragging rights are on the line for the winners of this second annual Memorial Day tourney at the center.

Live music begins at 4 p.m., with the straight-ahead bluegrass sound of the Packway Handle Band taking the stage on Belmont Abbey Island. They’re followed by Big Daddy Love and their soulful Southern style at 6 p.m., with lively Southern rock band the Infamous Stringdusters headlining at 8 p.m.

Fireworks close out the evening beginning at 9:30 p.m.


U.S. National Whitewater Center Memorial Day Celebration

WHEN: All day Sunday. 5- and 8-mile trail races at 9 a.m., cornhole tournament at 2 p.m., live music at 4 p.m.

WHERE: U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway.

TICKETS: $5 parking fee. Free for music/fireworks show; $45 for the VIP party. $39-$89 for activity passes; $30-$37 for races; $30 per team for the cornhole tournament.

DETAILS: 704-391-3900; www.usnwc.org.