Since 2016, 98.5 UPS and Black Diamond Broadcasting have been announcing the thrills, spills, disappointments and exhilaration that are synonymous with the Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon.

WUPS – 98.5 UPS, is the official radio station of the 120-mile race, which stretches from Grayling to Oscoda and will be held July 29-30, 2023. 98.5 UPS’s main objective every year is to increase public exposure for the event and elevate tourism in northern Michigan.

“We are proud to do our part to increase the economic benefit to businesses throughout the Au Sable River Valley, not only during race week but throughout the year and we use the marathon as a vehicle to highlight the region as a prime tourist destination,” said Mike Chires, who is co-owner, along with Norm McKee, of 98.5 UPS and Black Diamond Broadcasting.

This year, about 23 radio affiliates will cover the 75th annual Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon with updates every hour, from start to finish.

“98.5 UPS is the largest land mass signal in the state of Michigan. It has coverage from Frankenmuth to Mackinaw City and Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. 98.5 UPS is a giant megaphone to educate people about the race and the region,” Chires said.

The radio network is delivering live updates every hour during the entire race to about 75 percent of central and northern Michigan, he added.

“But there is still an opportunity to deliver more coverage to places like Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit,” Chires said.

“We will continue to explore race coverage opportunities to make the race even bigger in the future. We have and continue to be building great momentum.”

The winners of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon being interviewed after their victory.

The economic impact of the race on businesses along the race route has been well over $1 million annually, according to marathon organizers. And that should be no different this year, with most hotel rooms booked solid and restaurants and other tourist-oriented businesses expecting an uptick in customers.

Chires said since the day 98.5 UPS became the official station of the Marathon, its mission has been to increase the race’s visibility.

“A lot of work has gone into doing it,” he said. “Since 98.5 UPS became involved, interest in the race has more than tripled with more competitors participating, more spectators coming to watch the race and more listeners tuning in to hear about the great stories this race offers. And this is just the tip of the iceberg or paddle on how big this race can become.”

Phil Weiler, spokesman and an event organizer of the Marathon, said Chires and his team have taken the race to another level.

“They have been nothing but awesome to work with,” said Weiler. “There’s a mutual respect on both sides to make this such an impressive event that people not only want to travel from hundreds of miles away to compete in, but also come enjoy a few days in northern Michigan or enjoy listening to it on the radio in the comfort of their home.”

Both Weiler and Chires feel this year’s 75th anniversary race will be one for the ages.

“It’s going to be off the charts,” said Chires. “There are so many elite teams coming in this year. Ten teams could win it this year. In the past you usually could narrow it down to two or three teams, but you can throw that out the window this year. Which is going to make this year’s race extremely interesting and exciting.”

Weiler said the anticipation is already ratcheting up for the signature event.

“We are getting ready for what we expect will be the biggest one yet,” he said. “We have heard from competitors who are thinking about doing it just so they can say they were part of the 75th anniversary race. These are exciting times that will continue to ramp up until the starting gun goes off Saturday night, July 29at 9 p.m.”

Check out these other Au Sable Canoe Marathon blogs: