The annual SPAR River Mile Festival is once again set to anchor Nelson Mandela Bay’s vast water sports calendar this month.
The 92nd River Mile, which takes place on the Sundays River at Cannonville just outside Port Elizabeth on February 20 and 21, traditionally welcomes thousands of open-water swimmers and supporters to its shores.
Race director Michael Zoetmulder of Zsports said that although the event was a staple for local swimmers, it had shown tremendous growth over the past decade.
“Ten years ago the race drew just over 500 entrants and in 2014 it topped out at 1 600.”
He said the extended two-day programme – which culminates in the SPAR Ladies’ and Men’s Miles – offered events for swimmers of all ages and ability.
“Children twelve years and under can enter the Kids Across the River races and our veterans do well into their eighties.”
Apart from the swimming, he said, other disciplines included the 5km Wimpy Family Run and the 10 and 30km Oracle Media mountain bike events.
“We recognise the need for family activities in PE and, as such, provide a variety of events during the festival,” said Zoetmulder. “It also allows us to offer a triathlon component.”
SPAR Eastern Cape marketing director Abri Swart said it was the retailer’s 17th year of involvement in Africa’s oldest open-water swimming event.
“Our affiliation with the River Mile is synonymous with the SPAR culture of family, fun, fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
“We remain committed to making a contribution to the community by supporting events of this nature.”
The River Mile supports the Smile Foundation and Cleft Friends through raising awareness and collecting donations.
The News Café PE Disabled Mile and the Wakaberry Kids Across the River races, which feature a special needs category, cater for swimmers with disabilities.
The Wimpy Rotary Kids’ Zone, Castle Beer Tent and stalls will provide festivalgoers with plenty to do and see.
Zoetmulder said they had selected an assortment of food vendors as well as craft and general stalls ranging from swimwear to art.
Gates open at 8am daily and entry is R20 per person.
Enter at www.rivermile.co.za or find SPAR EC in Action on Facebook for more information.
CAPTION: Youngsters getting ready to take to the water during last year’s SPAR River Mile Festival at Cannonville on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. Photo: Supplied