Yaks and quacks

Beacon Falls to combine duck and kayak races to create river fest

Tim Ward of Seymour approaches the finish line during the 4th annual Naugatuck Valley River Race last May. The duck race, which usually takes place in October, will join the canoe and kayak race on May 5 this year. -FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Two of the biggest events in town will come together as one.

The Beacon Falls Duck Race and Naugatuck Valley Canoe and Kayak Race will be combined this year in an effort to increase attendance at both events.

The duck race, traditionally held in October, will join the canoe and kayak race on May 5 for a Sinko de Mayo Yaks (as in kayaks) and Quacks Race.

According to event organizer Bob Bradley, the duck race attracts mostly Beacon Falls residents while the kayak race brings in people from out of town.

“We decided by putting them together we can make one great big river fest,” Bradley said.

Bradley hopes the combined events will feed off each other and garner more visitors that they did separately.

“In the fall, there are so many competing events going on. You’ve got fairs everywhere,” Bradley said.

With fewer events in the spring, Bradley hopes the river race will give Beacon Falls a chance to shine.

The plans are to start the kayak race at 11 a.m. and finish in Beacon Falls between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The duck race would follow.

The event will also showcase the attractions of Beacon Falls with a taste of Beacon Falls and music provided by the local Root Six Band. Beacon Hose Co. #1 will sell beer for the first time this year.

“I think the missing link has kind have been having a glass of beer to hang around for the afternoon. … This is hopefully going to be a good way for them to make a few dollars,” Bradley said.

Bradley is looking for more vendors, including crafters and outdoors retailers, such as sporting goods stores, ski shops, and scuba diving shops. Connecticut Outdoors Canoes and Kayaks of Oakville is co-sponsoring the event. A sky diving club has already signed on and a sea plane company will be offering plane rides off of Toby’s Pond, Bradley said.

Bradley said the addition of the outdoor activities is to appeal to the 20 to 40 year olds that participate in the kayak and canoe race.

In its fifth year this year, Bradley said the canoe race is the biggest ongoing race in New England. In past years, it has attracted 300 racers.

The race starts at Platts Mill Road at the sound end of Waterbury, goes through Naugatuck, and ends at the Depot Street Bridge in Beacon Falls.

The duck race supports the Lions and Lioness clubs of Beacon Falls, while the Beacon Falls Merchants Association sponsors the boat race to support the health of the river and contribute to the Naugatuck River Watershed Association.

“You wouldn’t know that you’re anywhere but in the wilderness. It’s absolutely stunning,” Bradley said of the race course.

Bradley said the river is a great resource and activists are trying to get the Naugatuck River Valley recognized as a national heritage area. Bradley said the river has undergone quite a transformation since he was young.

“I’m 56 and when I was growing up as a kid it was a different color every day. … Today we’re canoeing and kayaking in it, we’re catching fish in it. … I’ve watched it go from a cesspool to a beautiful piece of water,” Bradley said.

Anyone interested in vending at the race should call Bradley at the Beacon Falls Pharmacy, (203) 437-5219.