BRATTLEBORO — The first-ever Riverfest Weekend, hosted by the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 6 and 7.
“We're very excited to have this event in Brattleboro and with local partners, reinvigorating the Riff Raft race, working with the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association, and just having a great time on the river in Brattleboro,” says CRC Executive Director Andrew Fisk.
CRC says Riverfest is intended to “showcase the area's rich array of outdoor recreational options, the many benefits of healthy rivers, and the beauty of the region.”
On Saturday, the event will focus on “Riverfest Village” and on- and near-river family-friendly activities from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an array of free activities.
Riverfest Village will be centered on the Depot Street–Union Station Park across the street from the Whetstone Station restaurant. Throughout the day there, you'll find information about the river and related topics, exhibits reflecting some of the history of the river, art activities, and more.
The Vernon Historians are planning to have a display in Riverfest Village related to building the Vernon Dam, as well as pictures of travel on the river before the Connecticut River's many dams were built.
The Brattleboro Historical Society will display photographs of Island Park, the pavilion and baseball diamond between Brattleboro and Hinsdale, N.H., that was the site of many community events until it was inundated by the river in the years after the Vernon Dam was built in 1909.
Offerings will also include guided and independent opportunities to try outdoor recreation options including canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs); fly-fish casting; hiking Wantastiquet to enjoy the summit's panoramic view of the valley into the Green Mountains or just to spend time in the woods; trail rides; nature walks; and more.
CRC and local partners will also offer activity stations and informational sessions. Activities happening on dry land include river-related talks at the Latchis Theatre with painter Benny Merns, poet-editor Mike Fleming, journalist Maddy Bodin, and nature writer and fly fisherman Reid Bryant.
A panel on greater Brattleboro's history and its relationship to the river will include local historian Joe Rivers, with former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee.
“Lampey,” the mysterious Connecticut River monster that plies the region's waters might make an appearance as well.
Also on Saturday is the return of the Riff Raft Regatta from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Registrants will build “hope-it-will-float” rafts to compete in a 25-to-50 yard sprint alone or with a group. They will enter the river from the Brattleboro-to-Hinsdale island to a starting line upstream of Whetstone Brook and Whetstone Station restaurant and race to the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge.
A number of prizes will be offered in various categories. The first 10 teams to register for the Riff Raft Regatta will be entered, race day, to qualify for a $100 gift certificate drawing from Sam's. Vessels must make it to the starting line to be entered into the Sam's drawing.
The first craft to pass below the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge will be awarded Riff Raft Regatta Champion.
See the guidelines and register at riff-raft-regatta-22.eventbrite.com.
On Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the New England Paddlesports Championship (NEPC) will welcome racers from across the Northeast. Classes will include canoes, kayaks, surf skis, and stand-up paddleboards.
While this is the 44th year NEPC has been held on the Connecticut River between southern Vermont and New Hampshire, this is just the second time competitors will be in this stretch of river between Brattleboro and Vernon.
The race will launch from Norm's Marina, just over the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge on Route 119 in Hinsdale, and it is part of the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (NECKRA) Flatwater Point Series.
Centered downstream from the West River confluence and just under New Hampshire's Mount Wantastiquet, racers will lap a mid-river island twice on a 12-mile marathon course. SUP paddlers will take a 5-mile course. Recreation Class paddlers and Novice Adult-Youth boats can choose between the 5-mile looped course or the 1-mile trial loop. Spectators will be able to see it all from bridges and the shore.
Special prizes will be given for Novice Youth-Adult boats to encourage younger paddlers to compete for their own set of awards. Register for the races at bit.ly/673-riverfest.
Also on Sunday at 11 a.m. will be the Lampey Business Challenge, a two-person canoe race for businesses to compete in a 1-mile course and have their names inscribed on the inaugural challenge trophy. Bring your own canoe or rent one at Norm's Marina.
Racers will park at and enter the river at Norm's Marina. Spectator and Riverfest parking will be available at the Runnings-George's Field parking lot in Hinsdale and in various public parking areas in downtown Brattleboro.
The mission of the Connecticut River Conservancy is collaborating with partners across the four states of the river's watershed to “protect and advocate for our rivers and educate and engage communities.” CRC's work helps bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of the Connecticut and its tributary streams.