GROTON — It is tradition to end the Groton Greenway River Festival each year with a late afternoon cardboard canoe race.
Using only three components, a role of electrical tape, a utility knife and two large sheets of cardboard, participants have 30 minutes to build a canoe in which they will compete.
Canoers line up on the banks of the Nashua River, and with an “On your mark, get set, GO!!” they’re off, paddling to designated markers in the middle of the river and back to shore again.
Square canoes, rectangular canoes, traditional long canoes with pointed ends cover the short distance with varying results. Some take on a little bit of water, but others take on a canoe full of water, sink immediately or make it part way.
Held on a warm, summer day, no one is complaining when they have to swim ashore. In fact, there is a great deal of laughter. There are always successful paddlers who make it back to shore with smiles on their faces, and everyone is considered a winner.
This year’s June 7 Groton Greenway River Festival, held at the Petapawag boat launch, offered many activities over the course of the day for the 723 people, young and old, who stopped by.
Visitors enjoyed building birdhouses, attending a “Creature Teachers” live animal demonstration in the main tent, and savored some hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers and fruit prepared and served by the Groton Firefighters Association.
One of the key organizers, Pete Carson said, “It was a great day and lots of people were able to get out on the Nashua River, by boat or canoe. We estimated that there were nine boats with eight people each (72 in total) who rode in boats supplied by Duck’s Boats Unlimited and approximately 150 people who chose to paddle in a Nashoba Paddlers canoe.”
Other event organizers included: Dave Pitkin, Marion Stoddart, Adam Burnett, Celia Silinonte, Russ Murray, Carol Countrier and Craig Gemmell.
Jerry Wooding of Groton conducted birdwatching tours and musical entertainment was provided by Snow Crow, who performed Earth-Sol Music and the Pebble Bottom River Kids.
A unique part of the history of the Nashua River is told in the book A River Ran Wild. It is a story of restoration and renewal and how the modern-day descendants of the Nashua Indians and European settlers were able to combat pollution and restore the beauty of the Nashua River in Massachusetts.
Both Onkwe Tase and Marion Stoddart, the real life main characters of that book, were in attendance at Riverfest. Onkwe Tase joined the Nugumij Drummers and Singers along with the Morning Star singers during the afternoon.
Sponsors of the Groton Greenway River Festival were numerous. Hollingsworth & Vose, a top level benefactor, helped support the event along with many other annual patrons, including, Moison Ace Hardware, Bemis Associates, Inc. of Shirley, Dr. Zale, DMD, Front Door Realty, LLC, Groton Wellness, and the Groton Market. Groton School donated materials for the blue bird box creations and provided the tables and chairs for exhibitors and performance spectators.
Buckingham Bus donated a bus and driver for the day to take guests from the parking lot at Deluxe to the festival. Musical performers were backed by the Groton Cultural Council, which also helps with other Greenway projects throughout the year. Financial assistance granted by the Town of Groton Lecture Fund was earmarked for music and arts and crafts.
David Pitkin said, “We would love to have more volunteers for next year. Funding from the 2016 Groton Lecture Fund has already been granted, which we appreciate greatly.”
His advice to those interested in attending next year: “Like us (the Groton Greenway River Festival) on Facebook to get ready!”