Yaks and quacks coming together for River Fest

The Naugatuck Valley Canoe and Kayak Race and the Beacon Falls Duck Race will be held together on May 5 in Beacon Falls. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — On Saturday two of Beacon Falls’ most popular events will come together on the same day.

The Naugatuck Valley Canoe and Kayak Race and the Beacon Falls Duck Race will combine forces this year for one large event known as the River Festival.

The theme of this year’s race is Yaks and Quacks.

This will be the 14th annual duck race in Beacon Falls, which is sponsored by the Beacon Falls Lions and Lioness clubs. The kayak and canoe race, which is sponsored by the Beacon Falls Merchant Association, is one of the largest races of its kind in New England.

While both festivals drew a decent size crowd, Lioness Carol Broesler explained that it made sense to bring these two events together to form one larger event.

“I think people are looking to start there summer season and we will be one of the first events in the area,” Broesler said.

Dave Faber of Connecticut Outdoors Canoes and Kayaks, who runs the kayak race part of the River Fest, explained that the combination of the events has helped promote the race as well. He has already had a lot of paddlers preregister for the event.

“We normally get 250 to 300 racers. If we have good water, with the added events also, we are expecting we could have 400 racers,” Faber said.

Beacon Falls Pharmacy’s Bob Bradley, who is helping to coordinate the event, felt that combining the two events will be beneficial to everybody involved.

“The fact that we have merged the events together has doubled the attractiveness to vendors. The kayak and canoe race attracts people outside of Beacon Falls. The duck race attracts people from Beacon Falls. That will mean a bigger turnout for the river fest,” Bradley said.

The kayak and canoe race will begin at 11:30 a.m. Faber would like paddlers to register between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. that day. This will allow the paddlers to have time to drive their vehicles down to the finish line at Beacon Falls and take the free shuttle back to the starting line, which will be on Platts Mill Road in Waterbury. Local restaurant Johnny’s Breakfast and Lunch will have a booth to sell food to the paddlers before the race.

The race will also feature the annual race within a race. Officials from local cities and towns try to beat each other, as well as the other paddlers, during the race. The winning town official will be allowed to display the winner’s trophy in their town hall for the year.

The duck race will begin at 3:30 p.m. It will take place while the results from the canoe and kayak race are being verified.

At Volunteer Park, which is located behind Beacon Fall’s Firehouse, festival attendees will find a variety of vendors to visit.

This year will feature raffles, music, food, sky dancers, environmental displays, and auctions.

During the festival, A Taste of Beacon Falls will also be taking place. This part of the festival will feature food prepared by local Beacon Falls restaurants, including The Original Antonio’s, Full Harvest Bar and Grill, and Beacon Falls Bakery and Deli.

“There are a record number of vendors,” Bradley said. “The lot is nearly full.”

The River Festival has a few new surprises for attendees this year.

Beacon Falls Hose Company No. 1 will have a beer concession stand for attendees of legal age.

The fireman will also be giving away a Long Trail Brewery snowboard, Bradley said.

The Long Trail Brewery has donated a custom snowboard that will be raffled off. A raffle ticket for the snowboard will be given with every purchase of a Long Trail beer.

The Norfolk Curling Club, whose clubhouse was destroyed in an arson fire earlier this year, will be raffling off a custom handmade canoe in hopes of raising funds to rebuild the clubhouse.

The festival will feature music by local Connecticut band Root Six, who describes itself as a high energy rock band playing an eclectic mix of music from the ‘60s to today.

The duck race is the biggest fundraising event for the Lions Club and Lioness Club.

Broesler explained that the funds raised from the event are used for scholarships, youth sports programs, diabetes awareness, low vision centers, AmireCares, eye research program and aid for local residents in need.

“Anytime a family needs help, the Lions and Lionesses reach out,” Broesler said.

Tickets for the duck race are available for purchase from Lion and Lioness Club members and from area businesses. First prize this year is a 60-inch Sharp television, second prize is an iPad 2, third prize is a Sharp Blu-ray/DVD player and fourth through tenth prizes are $100 gift certificates to area businesses.

Faber is happy that the race has drawn so many people, because it allows him to give back to the community.

“All the proceeds from this event are returned back to valley charities. This year, a lot of money goes to the clean-up funds for the river,” Faber said.

This year the kayak race was able to help raise money for the Naugatuck River Watershed Association, the Beacon Falls Hose Company, and the Naugatuck Fire Department.

“This was what our vision was the whole time; get money, enough to give back. This is the first year we were able to do that. Our hope is to continue that,” Faber said.

Broesler said that there were many ways people could help raise funds for the variety of causes at the event. People can buy raffle tickets, buy food or simply support a vendor.

Broesler was happy about the combination of both the events in the spring time. She felt that it could be cold in October, which wouldn’t draw as big of a crowd.

There was also another reason she was glad the duck race was moved up to May.

“The ducks wanted to get in the water early,” Broesler said.