GROTON — Meandering under the shade of the trees covering the Petapawag launch on the banks of the glistening Nashua River, more than 350 visitors attended the 2013 Groton Greenway River Festival.
Families took free canoes out on the river, children enjoyed assorted activities, hobbyists shared their skills, live music, including Native American Drumming, floated through the air, and as is tradition, the day concluded with the famous Cardboard Canoe Race.
The 2013 River Festival was held for the 13th time. One key purpose of the event is to bring awareness to the public about the importance of caring for and preserving the greenway along the Nashua River, which is a tributary of the Merrimack River and runs through parts of central and eastern Massachusetts as well as southern New Hampshire.
Many years ago, the Nashua River was greatly polluted from heavy contamination caused by industrial development along the river, including paper mills from which dyes were neglectfully discarded.
In the 1960s, Groton Greenway Committee Chairwoman Marion Stoddart worked with incredible perseverance and commitment to restore the Nashua River to a clean and vibrant water resource. A key volunteer for the Nashua River Watershed Association, Stoddart has helped to advance the efforts to maintain the river for all of the communities along its path, in conjunction with more local organizations such as the Groton Greenway Committee.
The day began with an opportunity to commute to the River Festival via bike. AdventuRides bike rides began at Station Ave at 10:30 a.m., leading a ride to the festival via the Nissitissit River.
Upon arrival at the River Festival, guests could participate in a session of family-friendly yoga, or take a Nashoba Paddlers’ canoe out on the Nashua River. There were arts and crafts tables; educational stations hosted by the NRWA, the Groton Trails Committee, the Groton Conservation Trust and the Groton Greenway Committee; demonstrations of fly fishing, wood/canvas canoe restorations, and native bees; and an array of music performed by “Annie and the BeeKeepers,” the “Pebbled Bottom River Kids” and the Nugumij Drummers throughout the afternoon.
Around 3 p.m., River Festival guests made their way to the registration booth for the ever-challenging Cardboard Canoe Race. Pursuing an engineering feat of how to build a canoe out of two sheets of cardboard and electrician’s tape that will float with contestants in it long enough to make it back to shore, participants of all ages began a timed construction period.
The 4 p.m. start whistle was blown and a parade of participants carried their cardboard canoes to the Petapawag launch. There were two heats for the race, and in the first heat, each and every cardboard canoe sent their captains and first mates asunder. No one complained as the cool river water provided relief from the day’s heat. In the second heat, several canoes made it successfully back to shore and a winner was declared.
Quietly darting about throughout the day, Groton Greenway Committee member Pete Carson, who oversaw the festival events, stayed on top of the agenda for performers, activities and events.
“It was a beautiful day for Riverfest,” Carson said, “and several families enjoyed being on and near the water. They heard wonderful music and were able to learn about the river and the watershed. There were plenty of children’s activities, including the return of the Giant Puppet Parade.”
Key organizations who helped support the Groton Greenway River Festival included: (Benefactors) Hollingsworth & Vose, the Town of Groton Lecture Fund, Nashoba Paddler LLC, (Patrons) Lawrence Academy, Bemis Associates Inc., Groton Market, the Groton Cultural Council, a local agency of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Buckingham Bus, Becky Carson Design, Deluxe Corporation, (Sponsors) Groton Veterinary Hospital, Moison Ace Hardware, Groton Natural Market, and the Groton School Buildings and Grounds.