With permits in hand, the River Rat Race is on!

  • River Rat Race Director Dave Flint predicts the weather will be 65 degrees and sunny on race day. It’s difficult to imagine when currently looking at the icy waters near the starting area by the South Main Street bridge in Athol recently. The 56th annual running of the Athol to Orange splash will be held Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. Deborrah Porter

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 2/8/2019 6:00:41 PM

ATHOL — Athol Selectmen this week voted unanimously to approve a pair of permits to allow the 56th Annual Athol to Orange River Rat Race to be held about two months from now.

Race chairman David Flint told the board at its meeting Tuesday the event will be held on Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. He added that some changes will be made in this year’s race.

“For the last few years we’ve been declining in the number of canoes that are entering,” said Flint, “and we’re trying to find a way to boost that back up again. We’ve got a lot of local people who are very good canoers but they’re sitting on the fence saying, ‘All these guys are coming in from New York and taking all the money; we don’t stand a chance.’ So, what we’re doing is we’re putting in a new class this year for the first, second, and third local team. They have to live within the nine-town North Quabbin region. It’ll be $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $100 for third place. Hopefully, that’ll bring in some of the folks who are on the fence.”

“All the permits have been applied for from the state,” Flint continued. “The Army Corps of Engineers’ work is done, as far as the level of the water is concerned.”

“We’ve ordered all the port-a-potties, including one for the 5K road race,” he said. “A few years ago somebody said they didn’t come to town for the parade because there was no place to go to the bathroom. That was a good point.” One unit will be placed near Flowerland, another three will be down near the bridge, in the starting area.

“One was donated by our state senator, Anne Gobi. I have all kinds of ideas of what I could put for signs on that, but I’m going to leave that alone,” Flint joked.

He also pointed out to the board that the official entry form states that prize money will be determined by the number of canoes that enter.

“Well, if we’d gone by that for the last five years, we wouldn’t have given out the money that we’re giving out,” said Flint. “It’s because of our sponsors that we’re able to do it. It takes something like 265 canoes to be entered just to break even, and that’s not including the cost of the port-a-potties, the police department in Orange, and other costs. It just can’t be done with 220 canoes; so, that’s where the sponsors come in.”

The race chairman urged everyone to pay attention to the posters publicizing the race, which are placed in various spots around town, and to patronize the businesses listed as sponsors.

“These businesses are what’s keeping the River Rat Race going,” he said. “We have three new ones this year. I could be here until 10 o’clock tonight telling you about our sponsors and everything that they do.”

Other events taking place the weekend of the race, according to Flint, include a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Congregational Church, the 5K Big Cheese Road Race starts at 8:30, to be followed by the parade. The DAV also sponsors a carnival which will run all weekend.

He also noted that the Athol Lions Club would no longer be a sponsor of the Sunday racing. However, he added, the Orange Lions Club and the Birch Hill Canoe Club will take over the Sunday pro-am races this year. Those races get underway at 10 a.m. on April 14 at Orange River Front Park.

For more information go to www.riverratrace.com or www.facebook.com/groups/RiverRatRace

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