River tanking makes a comeback in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, Kansas – Southwest Kansas has gotten a lot of rain in the last month and because of that, one town gets to experience a timeless tradition for the first time in years.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” said Joanice Jantz, the manager of the Hamilton County Museum.

The town of Syracuse is bringing back a tradition that it was once known for called “river tanking.”

River tanking simply involves sitting in a horse or stock tank and floating along a river with friends.

“You get your coolers and your lawn chairs and your life jackets and your sunscreen, and you get in and you float down to the bridge,” said Karey Hatcher, with Ark Valley Oil.

The Syracuse River Run began in the early ’80s on the Arkansas River just south of town.

What started out as a relaxing pastime on the river, turned into a yearly event.

“It got bigger as the years went on,” said Jantz. “At first there were just a few people and it just grew and grew.”

But over time the area grew so dry that it became impossible to float down the river.

This year, thanks to heavy rains just north of town, the river is finally full again.

So the event is back on for Saturday, August 29.

“Anytime that you hold an event that brings people from out of town to Syracuse, it helps our economy and they not only shop at our stores but they also see what we have to offer and they might come back,” said Crystal Lampe, a 2015 River Run co-organizer.

“We’re very excited to do it because now our grandkids can see what we used to do,” Hatcher said.

There are no rules for what you use to float down the river but most people choose to decorate and sit in stock tanks.”

The event includes a plastic duck race and competitions for things like best decorated tank.

“Back when they had them, they had people coming from everywhere. Kinda like we’re hoping will happen next weekend,” said Juana Bustillos, a 2015 River Run co-organizer.

For many Syracuse residents the event holds a special meaning.

“I’m glad that we have the water, the moisture to do it again because it’s been a long, long time since we’ve had that,” Jantz said.

The River Run was planned for tomorrow, but because of the amount of rain the area has seen, it’s been pushed back to next Saturday.

Organizers of the event say anyone can participate and if you don’t have a horse tank, just grab yourself an inner-tube.

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