Kasey Espinoza immediately got hooked a decade ago as she volunteered to work at her first Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon.

It was a labor of love from the very beginning for Espinoza, so much in fact that her two young children and wife usually join her now on the annual pilgrimage to the race. There, they watch the communities the race runs through — from Grayling to Oscoda — support paddlers competing from all corners of the country.

This year’s 75th anniversary 120-mile race is July 29-30.

“It’s exciting, and inspiring to watch the racers, and it’s an overall great experience to see the hydros,” said Espinoza, who has worked at Consumers Energy for 13 years and works security at the hydroelectric plants during the marathon. “I am constantly recruiting volunteers, telling them they should go up there. Bring your family and build some memories. You won’t regret it.”

Derek Nelson also started volunteering at the race 10 years ago as a member of the Beaver Creek Fire Department and provided medical standby.

Over the years, he’s served in roles including handing out water, putting up fencing and serving breakfast. This will be his first year at the marathon as a Consumers Energy employee.

“It’s one of those things that is definitely contagious that you want to come back to every year,” said Nelson, who started with Consumers Energy in 2021 and works in Incident Management.

Nelson recalled meeting a family who was just stopping by to see the race about seven years ago.

“They had no idea what was going on,” he said. “But they must have liked what they saw because I have seen them enjoying it every year since. That pretty much says it all about how the race draws people in. I plan on doing this for as long as I can.”

To volunteer at the marathon, contact Kathy Erickson at kerick63@gmail.com or 989-820-5031.

Read more about the marathon: