BEACON FALLS — The fish in the Naugatuck River had some company Saturday. Kayakers and canoers from throughout the region raced their way down the river as part of the 4th annual Naugatuck Valley River Race and Festival.
“It was fun, a lot of fun,” said Jim Schumacher of Derby, who participated in the race for the first time Saturday.
Schumacher was among the 100 or so racers to traverse the six-mile course, which started in Waterbury, traveled downstream through Naugatuck and ended at the Depot Street Bridge in Beacon Falls.
Like Schumacher, Tim Ward of Seymour took part in his first Naugatuck Valley River Race.
“I just wanted to go out on the water,” said Ward, who was the second person to reach the finish line. “I’m anxious for spring.”
Ward moved to the area seven years ago from the Adirondack region in New York.
“Got to show Connecticut how we do it in the Adirondacks,” Ward joked.
The annual race and festival was organized by Bob Bradley of the Beacon Falls Pharmacy and Dave Faber of Connecticut Outdoors in Oakville, who is one of the original founders of the race.
Schumacher and Ward thanked Faber and all the volunteers for their efforts in putting on the race and festival.
“Dave at Connecticut Outdoors did a fine job setting this up and thank you to all the volunteers,” Schumacher said.
Ward echoed Schumacher’s sentiments.
“Dave at Connecticut Outdoors, he’s the man. He did a great job with this. He really put his heart into it,” Ward said.
Once racers reached the finish line, they were greeted with food and live music at the Beacon Hose Co. 1. Dozens of people reveled in the day’s festivities. But, it was the Naugatuck River itself that proved to be the day’s biggest winner.
Each racer paid a $20 registration fee and any proceeds from the race will be donated to the Naugatuck River Watershed Association.
Aside from the money, the race also helps to raise awareness about the Naugatuck River.
For years, advocates for the Naugatuck River have been working to clean the river up and bring more attention to it. As much as the annual event is about having some fun, Faber said, it’s also about showing people the river is making a come back.
“I was happy we got a lot of new people on the river,” Faber said.