Leinenkugel’s 2nd Annual Canoes for a Cause Friendly Float on the Chicago River

Summer Shandy | Leinenkugel'sFREE BEER.

Did I get your attention? What if I’d said, “Let’s clean up the Chicago River,” instead? Not quite the same, right? Then how about this: “Participate in the 2nd Annual Canoes for a Cause Chicago Friendly Float down the Chicago River, and be treated to breakfast, lunch, and beer.” Now we’re talking!

Along with my husband, Mark, and fellow Chicago-based travel blogger, Traveling Ted, I spent this past Saturday paddling the Chicago River and picking up some trash along the way. Maybe it was the promise of free beer that lured in some of the 300 paddlers to this year’s event, but I’d like to think more people participated in order to shed light on the improving-but-still-not-so-great state of the Chicago River.

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company teamed up with Friends of the Chicago River to organize the event and, I have to say, it was incredibly fun! No detail was overlooked, from the Ziploc baggies we all received, filled with things like red Leinenkugel’s baseball caps and rubber gloves to wear while pulling trash out of the river; to bottles of cold water, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes waiting for us at the end of the float. The event was so well-organized that, even without the complimentary food and beer, I’d participate every year. And the most impressive part? The three Leinenkugel brothers – Jake, John, and Dick – all were in attendance. They didn’t just offer their name to use as an endorsement and send cases of beer to distribute; they actually got into canoes and paddled alongside the participants, and even hung out at Dick’s Last Resort afterward and continued to spread the word about the importance of cleaning up the Chicago River. As if I needed any more convincing, I am a true fan and supporter of Leinenkugel’s from here on out. (And the fact that these brothers make delicious beer doesn’t hurt.)

Leinenkugel's 2nd Annual Canoes for a Cause Friendly FloatThe paddle itself was immensely enjoyable. We put in just off Loomis Street, at about 2800South, and paddled back up to Dick’s Last Resort near the Dearborn Street Bridge, about 300North. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life, driving over and alongside the river countless times. I’ve been on the river in water taxis and tour boats, but never really ON the river like I was on Saturday. Being in a canoe really offers a different perspective: it makes the relationship with the water more personal and brings us closer to it, both literally and figuratively. Instead of driving over the numerous bridges spanning the waterway, I got to float under them and admire the craftsmanship, and look up at the steel beams and metal latticework. It also brought me closer to, and allowed me to see with my own eyes, the trash and debris polluting the river. While it’s true that the river has been cleaned up considerably over the last few years, it still has a long way to go. We were supplied with nets and trash bags to collect garbage while paddling. Mark and I took our time, stopping frequently to scoop up plastic bottles, food wrappers, and even a hair pick. Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but when we pulled in at Dick’s, we were told that we brought in the biggest bag of trash.

Attention: No beer was consumed while canoeing, but several were enjoyed afterward on dry land back at Dick’s Last Resort.

Thanks to Leinenkugel’s and Friends of the Chicago River for organizing and hosting such an important and enjoyable event. I’m definitely more aware of how much work still needs to be done in cleaning up the Chicago River and absolutely willing to take part in the effort. I’m also willing to drink even more Leinenkugel’s. (Oh, twist my arm!)

One last note: The Friendly Float is not intended for children due to the safety concerns and because beer is involved. In fact, participants must be 21 years old. However, volunteering to raise awareness, cleaning up the Chicago River, and not wrecking the planet, know no age limits.

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16 Responses to Leinenkugel’s 2nd Annual Canoes for a Cause Friendly Float on the Chicago River

  1. D.J. - The World of Deej August 9, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    This looked like such a great day…Perhaps I should pitch some local breweries on something similar:)

    • Francesca August 9, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      It WAS a great day, Deej – totally fun!

  2. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) August 9, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Very cool, Francesca. I’m glad to see you and Ted got a chance to see each other. Like I told him, I didn’t realize how polluted the river was when we went on the architecture tour. Brava to you and Mark for making a difference in your city.

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks, Leah! Mark was so proud to have brought in the most trash; he’s still talking about it. It was great to see Ted and share some beers afterwards. An overall awesome day!

  3. lola August 9, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    love this event and not just for the free beer. i’d be tempted to join except i’m pretty sure i’d be the one “river friend” in the dirty river within minutes of paddling. i’m not for the small water craft. i need a captain 😉

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Join us next time; we’ll ask for a special 3-person canoe! You can sit right in the middle and look pretty while Mark and I do the paddling 🙂

  4. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) August 9, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Yes, you had me at Free Beer. And if I was close to Chicago, I’d sign up for the 3rd annual. Great idea.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      I mean, who doesn’t like free beer?? I’m already looking forward to the 3rd annual!

  5. Lazy Travelers (@lazytravelers) August 10, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    love your disclaimer at the end! nothing wrong with a little drunk canoeing…

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      You’re right, but I actually prefer to stay sober while canoeing. Otherwise I’d for sure end up in the water, and that’s not something I want to happen on the Chicago River!

  6. Pola (@jettingaround) August 13, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    How nice that two of our #WindyCityTweetup adventurers got to hang out together! Too bad the river needs TLC…

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      Yes, so glad I got to hang out again with Ted. Let’s plan something so the three of us can hang out again soon!

  7. Tawny- Captain and Clark August 13, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    What a great idea! This is right up our alley. A good cause, a great time, and free beer. Does it get any better? We might have to sign ourselves up for next year!

    • Francesca August 14, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      Ya know, I’m not sure it does get any better. This event probably will end up being the highlight of my & Mark’s summer. It would be so awesome if you guys did join us next year!


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    […] another slant on the Friendly Float, check out the effort by Work Mom Travels who joined this year. Kudos for her for bringing in the biggest trash bag. Paddling the Chicago […]

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    […] another slant on the Friendly Float, check out the effort by Work Mom Travels who joined this year. Kudos for her for bringing in the biggest trash bag. Paddling the Chicago […]

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