For the second consecutive year, one of the signs that spring is about to blossom — namely, the whitewater river races in Waldo County and annually the first paddle events in the state — have been canceled due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

For more than four decades, the running of the popular St. George River and Passagassawakeag (Passy) River paddle events happened on back-to-back weekends in late March and early April.

However, due to the almost daily evolution of information and safety protocols surrounding COVID-19, along with the need for a timely decision for paddlers, support personnel and sponsors, the 2021 canoe/kayak/paddleboard events have been pushed to 2022.

Dale Cross, who has spearheaded the events since their inception, said a decision had to be made because no one knew what was going to happen with COVID-19 and if state safety mandates/protocols would be eased or lifted.

Thus, a few weeks ago, it was determined there was not enough time to organize and host the events properly, he said.

The next events, in 2022, will be the 41st St. George River Race and 47th Passagassawakeag River Race.

Cross, the former longtime director of the Waldo County YMCA, said he and others did not want to hold the events if they could not be held completely and at the standards of the first 40-plus years.

Cross said he and other paddlers are devastated that the events cannot be held for a second consecutive year, after seldom being postponed over four-plus decades, but a decision needed to be made.

"We were all looking forward to racing," he said.

He said the races will be back "bigger and better than ever" in 2022 with a boatload of giveaways.

Cross said the Waldo County YMCA sponsored the events for decades, but had not planned to last year or this year. However, he said he is hopeful, and there are indications, that organization again will sponsor the events starting in 2023.

The races attract large crowds to the rivers with high, fast waters and moderating spring temperatures as many paddle the raging, rock-filled whitewater in canoes, kayaks and on paddleboards in the hope to finish without taking an unplanned dip in the near-freezing waters.

For years, the events were organized and hosted by the YMCA, under the guidance of Cross, that organization's longtime director, and Karen Varney, longtime employees of the YMCA.

In recent years, Cross and Varney retired from the YMCA

Cross and Varney, along with their spouses, will continue the tradition of the two storied races, which will support Maine Operation Game Thief.

The river races embody the important spirit and mission of Maine Operation Game Thief (MOGT) to protect and preserve Maine's wildlife, Cross said in a Facebook post last year.

MOGT is a private, non-profit organization which supports the work of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Warden Service, Department of Marine Resources, Maine Marine Patrol, and Wildlife Crime Stoppers. MOGT pays rewards, if requested, to citizens who turn in poachers or individuals unlawfully introducing non-native fish species to lakes, ponds and streams of Maine

Proceeds from future races will benefit MOGT, Cross said. Those races will begin anew in 2022.

Cross said the merchandise for the 2020 event remains available and those items will carry over to next year’s events.

"We want to wait to do this thing right," Cross said.

So, the Waldo County-based whitewater paddle races — historic St. George and "Passy" — expect to again make a splash in 2022.