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Enjoy Magazine

The Inaugural Shasta Cascade Sports Festival

04/22/2016 02:01PM ● By Jon Lewis

The Race Is On

May 2016
Story by Jon Lewis

As owners of AA Sports, a Beaverton, Ore.-based company that owns, times and/or manages more than 100 races in the Pacific Northwest, Jon and Carol Atherton have stopped in Redding plenty of times—but only as a fuel and lodging stopover on Interstate 5.

If they had a chance to look around, triathlon enthusiast Randy Carter was convinced they’d see what he sees: everything a triathlete could ask for. An alpine lake perfect for swimming—complete with Shasta Dam filling in as a one-of-a-kind observation stand, a vast swath of countryside ideal for a bike course, and miles and miles of trails to run on.

Carter, a retired Redding firefighter, knows from triathlons. He has traveled the world to compete in them and even qualified six times for the prestigious Ironman event in Hawaii. He has long had a dream of being able to race in his own backyard.

“As I ride around here, I’m always thinking this has got everything you need,” says Carter, who has completed 16 full-length triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run) and 50 long-course (or “half-iron”) races that call for a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a half-marathon (13.1-mile run).

“It has been a goal of mine for the past 10 or 12 years to bring a triathlon here,” Carter says. “I knew we had everything to put on a high quality race.” Nancy Cardoso, a personal trainer, triathlon coach and a competitive runner, shares Carter’s goal. “We wanted a race to show off all the great things Shasta County has to offer,” she says.

What the two needed was a qualified race director, like AA Sports, the company that created the hugely popular Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival in Sunriver, Ore. That three-day event, now in its 20th year, draws some 5,000 people to the Bend area each June during what was traditionally a slow time of year. An economist with Southern Oregon University estimated Pacific Crest’s economic impact at more than $20 million.

Carter and Cardoso reached out to AA Sports and the Athertons were interested. Chad New, the director of industry relations and sales with the Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau, says he also saw the potential and joined the team. He personally invited the Athertons to the North State for a more extensive look around. 

They liked what they saw. “They were speechless,” says New. “It may be the best venue they ever found.”

“To say I was pleasantly surprised doesn’t do it justice,” Jon Atherton says. Adds his wife: “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I didn’t have a clue. I was shocked at how much Redding had to offer. That really inspired me to want to showcase it, to show it off.”

And so was born the inaugural Shasta Cascade Weekend Sports Festival, “an event so big, unique and fun, it takes three cities to make it happen,” the organizers say. Redding, Anderson and Shasta Lake have combined forces “to offer athletes, families and friends of all ages a festival getaway that will become a tradition for years to come.”

The festival will be held over Memorial Day weekend. The three-day weekend gives endurance athletes a day to travel and a day to recover, and late May should offer good lake levels and cool, but not cold, water temperatures. It should also prevent athletes from having to compete for six or more hours in Redding’s intense summer heat.

Carol Atherton says the Shasta Cascade is designed to appeal to athletes and their families throughout the western United States and Canada, so having the extra day off is conducive to travelers. “If it was just a regular weekend, I don’t think it would be as successful, and if you do it in the summer when kids are out of school, then you just get the athletes that come out to race.

“We’re trying to build a whole family adventure. With so many events, you don’t have to be a seasoned athlete,” she said. “We want locals to feel that this is their event. Come out and be proud. Be on a team, walk the 5K or half-marathon. Come get your medal. It’s really a family event.”

Like its Oregon counterpart, the Shasta Cascade will feature long-course and shorter Olympic triathlons, a marathon, a half-marathon, an endurance duathlon (bike and run), 10K and 5K races, casual bike tours and the Kids’ Pedal, Splash & Dash for children 12 and under.

The triathlon course starts with a swim in Shasta Lake from the Centimudi boat ramp. Competitors will then bicycle through the city of Shasta Lake and into the Jones Valley area before heading southeast to Anderson and back north to Redding and the finish line at the Civic Auditorium. The third and final leg of the race will take runners out on the Sacramento River Trail.

The shorter races and bike tours will all start and finish at the Civic Auditorium, which will be transformed into a sports exposition area complete with live entertainment, food and beverages, a beer garden and vendors exhibiting gear, apparel and health products.

The festival also will offer students and service club members a chance to volunteer and earn money for their nonprofit organizations.

The Redding area, with its proximity to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area, its superior air quality and highway access and its scenic highlights like Shasta Lake, Shasta Dam, the Sundial Bridge and the Sacramento River Trail system, has the potential to surpass the Pacific Crest Weekend, Jon Atherton says.

“That’s the goal for Shasta County. To bring people in, increase the economy, and open the eyes of everybody to realize what a wonderful place you guys live in. Hopefully they’ll come back more than once a year and bring more dollars,” Jon Atherton says. 

For registration and volunteer information,