OSWEGO, Ill. (WBBM) — This weekend marks the 50th year for the annual Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox River.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports, spoke with one competitor who’s paddled a canoe or two in his life – to say the least.

For 22 years, Robert Mitchler of Oswego was in the canoe race.

“And then I retired when I was 80 years old,” Mitchler said. “I said, that’s the last one.”

But it wasn’t. When he was 85, Mitchler brought out the canoe one more time.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports

“Then I became 90 years old last year and I said, ‘What the heck. I’ll do it again,’” Mitchler said.

This year, on Sunday, he is doing it one more time. He will be 91 on Saturday.

“I always kid everybody,” he said. “I always tell them that we win our class, because no other 90-year-olds are in it.”

There’s no struggle continuing in the race, Mitchler said.

“Canoeing is easy,” he said. “All you have to do is sit down in a canoe and go downstream and paddle a little, and if you’ve got a younger fellow with you, he does most of the paddling.”

Mitchler’s 55-year-old son, John, is coming in from Colorado to compete with his dad.

Mitchler used to be a state senator, a Republican representing the Oswego area from 1964 to 1981. He remembers the old days of the Mid-American race in the 1970s.

“I opposed and voted against the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution, although I support equal rights for the ladies, but I didn’t want it in the constitution,” Mitchler said. “But there would be groups along the way and they’d yell out, ‘ERA, yes!’ and I’d yell, ‘ERA, no!’ We’d have a lot of fun.”

Mitchler says this is not his last Mid-American canoe race. But he won’t commit to next year.

“Well, I don’t know about next year.” Mitchler said. “No, I’m going to wait until I’m 95. That’ll be sort of a goal to go for.”

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