TELLICO PLAINS - More than 100 white water canoeists took over the Tellico River in Monroe County on Sunday as part of Ain't Louie Fest.
The annual paddling rite of spring attracts open boaters from all over the world.
The gathering spans two weekends and mostly consists of loosely organized paddling, but the keynote event is Sunday's "Only Upper Tellico" race.
It's really more of a demolition derby than it is a race," Michael 'Louie' Lewis said. "There's no rules so if your real good buddy is about to pull away from you, it's perfectly legal to grab his boat and prevent him from getting ahead of you. Anything goes, it's sort of Ricky Bobby, 'rubbing is racing' type thing."
For Sunday's event 101 paddlers finished the race by going over Baby Falls. Another 75 people lined the shore at the finish to watch the approximately 15-foot-tall waterfall.
Steve Childs is one of four paddlers from the United Kingdom.
"It's probably one of the biggest events of this kind in the world, so we make the trip every spring," Childs said. "It's a cold and miserable sport where we live. It's nice to come and see the sunshine."
On Saturday one canoeing couple was married at Baby Falls. West Virginia couple Seth and Lacy Burdette's story is tied to the water.
"We met on the river, we spend our time on the river, and we got married on the river so it just seemed natural," Seth said.
He, however, did not think the weather conditions were as pleasant as his British counterpart.
"We planned to go down to Baby Falls and have a short ceremony and ran in a tandem canoe. We were hoping it would be a little warmer but the snow came and made it nice and pretty," the newlywed said.
Ain't Louie Fest is unique, not just because of the abundance of options for whitewater canoeing, but the sense of community is strong.
Childs says the community is why he comes from England each year. Friendship is also what bring Lacy Burdette back.
"You don't meet these kind of people anywhere else," she said.
Michael Lewis is proud that he gets to show off his homeland with his paddling friends from all over the world.
"Getting the Canadians down here is really the highlight," Lewis said.
"All the yankees coming is something we have to put up with, but you know, it's all part of it," he added with a grin.
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