THOMSON, Ill. — The Hanlon brothers set up their tents close to the Mississippi River on Wednesday as they reached midweek in their final Great River Rumble.

After 25 years, the Rumble is being discontinued due to a lack of volunteers and aging organizers, said John, Dan and Bill.

Bill Hanlon is paddling in his 12th Rumble, he said Wednesday. He read about it in 1995 in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

“He’s the one who started us on this thing,” said Dan. They paddled a canoe during their initial Rumbles, but this year they’ve got kayaks.

The Great River Rumble takes participants down tributaries of the Mississippi to the mighty river itself in a week for $150. In 2019, the Rumble started on the Cedar River, entered the Iowa River and ended at the Mississippi, said Dan Hanlon.

The 2020 Rumble was canceled due to COVID-19.

Sometimes the route is farther north, and other times it’s in the south. In 2012, the canoes and kayaks started on the Missouri River and ended in the Mississippi, said John. The route was chosen for 2011 but flooding made it impossible that year.

The Rumble is a lot of work, said Bill.

“It’s a lot of fun, though,” said John.

“A good blend of people,” said Bill.

Temperatures this week have been mild, the men said. The days have been nice this week, said John, and the nights have been cool, said Dan.

Nearly 230 people are traveling by canoe or kayak while support crews carry their camping gear to each overnight stop. Campers break down their tents about 5:30 a.m. and hit the water between 8 and 9 a.m. each morning, the Hanlons said.

The first morning it’s hard to get up at 5:30 a.m., said Dan, but eventually they get used to it.

The Hanlons have friends they meet every year on the river, they said. They’ve met people from as far away as California, Hawaii and France.

John is from Sarasota, Florida. Dan and Bill live in Iowa – Dan in Springville and Bill in Anamosa.

The participants are getting older, the men said. “We’ve got a guy who’s 91,” said Dan.

Vicki Harter, of New Brighten, Minnesota, sat in a camp chair and fanned herself Wednesday afternoon while Rumblers lined up for dinner. “I’m from Minnesota, so this is really hot weather [to me],” she said.

Harter is enjoying her eighth Rumble, paddling a Perception Eclipse 17-foot kayak.

“This organization is top notch,” Harter said. “They just do everything nice, and everything is the best value.” Organizers make sure everyone has fun, she said.

“[I’m] very, very sad it’s the last one,” Harter said.

Harter has a seasonal residence about 20 miles north of the Twin Cities, she said. “I”m on the Mississippi a lot.” The river is different where she lives, she said. It’s narrower, but it’s also cleaner. She can see the bottom.

The river is murkier as it flows south, Harter said. One year the Rumble went through the Hannibal, Missouri area, and the water had a lot of slime on it, she said.

Harter is traveling with some women she met on the Rumble eight years ago, she said. They’ve kayaked other river trips as well, she said.

Harter has traveled the Iowa, Des Moines, Chippewa, Wisconsin and St. Croix rivers during various Rumbles, she said. In her home state, Harter has kayaked the Rum, Crow and Mississippi rivers, she said. “There’s a lot of wonderful paddling in Minnesota.”

In Thomson, as at other stops, food is provided by locals. Sale of food Wednesday raised money for Thomson Area Community Outreach, Thomson Community Fund, Thomson Depot Museum, Thomson Fire Department, Thomson Methodist Church, Thomson Woman’s Club, York Baptist Church and York Community Church.

Food was donated by Bear’s Drive Inn, Benson’s on the Mississippi, Casey’s General Store, Dusty’s Pizza Plus, Johnson’s Processing Plant, Neumiller Farms, Ryan Eissens Construction, Savanna-Thomson State Bank, Steve Wilkinson Smoked Pulled Pork, The Station, Thomson Chamber of Commerce, Thomson Lions Club and local residents.

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Senior Staff Writer

A native of Centerville, Winona joined the Clinton Herald in November 2018 after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.