Community members combine forces to add to Albert Lea Floats

Published 9:00 am Sunday, May 26, 2019

While Albert Lea Floats continues to focus on putting boats in the water and people in those boats, a new aspect of the day is intended to increase offerings for the whole family.

For the Albert Lea Lakes Foundation, this is the fifth year of Albert Lea Floats — this year dubbed Albert Lea Floats and Plays — a free boating event held at the Golden Point Launch and funded by grant money from Michelob Golden Draft Light.

Lakes Foundation President Brian Hensley said the foundation has $2,400 left from the grant, enough for this year’s event. The Lakes Foundation rents canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards from the Brookside Boathouse (as well as some bikes and hamboards) for the community to use. Boathouse staff will also be there to help with equipment and instruction, Hensley said.

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“It’s just a great way to get people on the water and experience what our area lakes have,” Hensley said. “You know, a lot of people don’t have that opportunity, and so it’s a great way to show them that it’s a fun event and a great way to spend the day with family and it’s just a great free way to give back to the community.”

However, this year’s Albert Lea Floats and Plays will include more land activities because of a partnership with Parks and Recreation. Hensley said families with younger children may have spent half an hour on the water before boredom set in for the littler boaters. Adding land activities gives them something to do when they get out of the boat.

“We’re the play part,” Albert Lea Recreation Program Supervisor Jenny Davis said.

Davis said the event is not a reiteration of Just Play, a former annual event aimed at children that the city has decided to discontinue due to difficulty finding organizations and groups to lead activities.

Instead, Parks and Recreation will debut Rec on the Go, a new free mobile program that will bring yard games, sports, arts and crafts to city parks as well as some Thursdays on Fountain and Albert Lea Lakers games. Parks and Rec will also set up a bouncy house and may lead large games or activities should interest arise.

“We’re always trying to get people to be out there and active and happy,” Davis said. “… We want people to utilize our parks, to draw attention to our waterways as well … they are part of our park system, too.”

Hensley said Albert Lea Floats has been well attended in the past, with approximately 150 to 200 people using canoes, kayaks or paddleboards.

The event typically occurs in late summer, but Hensley said the Lakes Foundation found value in moving the event forward, ahead of the start of a new school year and ahead of the start of fall.

“Maybe this will prompt some people to get on the water earlier in the year and (say), ‘Wow that’s something we really want to try and do during the summer,’” Hensley said.

Albert Lea Floats and Plays is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1 at Frank Hall Park and Golden Point Launch.

Tickets, please

Who: Albert Lea Lakes Foundation and Albert Lea Parks and Recreation

What: Albert Lea Floats and Plays

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1

Where: Frank Hall Park, Golden Point Launch

How much: Free to the public

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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