More than 100 volunteers help smooth the waters for annual River Rat Race

  • River Rat Race Director Dave Flint is gathering items needed for the River Rat Race, to be held Saturday, April 13. The items laid out include the finish line banner, Flint’s personal waders donned at the start of the race in case he needs to help any capsized paddlers; the jug on the rope is a flotation device he brings for the same purpose, and the bullhorn is sometimes used by the judges stationed at the end of the race. Courtesy photo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2019 9:53:11 PM
Modified: 3/31/2019 9:53:12 PM

ATHOL ­— In the months before River Rat Race weekend and during the event, a team of volunteers with varying backgrounds is working behind the scenes to help ensure everything goes smoothly. Race Director Dave Flint is grateful for those who contribute. “Over the course of the weekend, there’s probably a hundred people who help out in one way or another,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

Athol Selectman Lee Chauvette maintains the official River Rat Race website. On race day, Piragis Boats & Motors loans one of their motor boats to Flint.

Over the years, the popular family-friendly weekend has included a pancake breakfast at the Athol Congregational Church, the Big Cheese 5K Road Race/Walk, a parade, a carnival at Lord Pond Plaza, and the headlining Athol to Orange River Rat canoe race. The Athol Lions Club, which organizes the River Rat Race, traditionally has a strong number of members assisting in all its stages.

Behind the scenes

The countless details and duties that make the event happen may get lost in the festive atmosphere, but for the volunteers, the number one aim is to ensure a fun and safe time for all.

Quabbin Reservoir historian J.R. Greene has been the Sealer of Weights and Measures for the Town of Athol since 1984 and is responsible for checking on one-day hawker and peddler licenses along the parade route. The town requires each vendor to have a separate license, and if they don’t have a town permit, Greene must ask them to leave or have the police remove them.  He recalls only having to do it once several years ago. Greene walks up and down the street, usually before the parade starts, using a list provided by the Board of Selectmen to check the licenses. He noted that the numbers of parade vendors have dropped from around a dozen to a few.

River Rat registrants

Word has it that paddlers have been out practicing along the Millers River. More than a dozen more teams have signed up for the April 13 race, bringing the total to 36, including the Mixed Team of Tony Davis and Sharon Spalluto, both of Marlow, New Hampshire, race veteran Bob Rapant of Williamstown and Corina Peritore of Boxborough, and Alstead, New Hampshire residents Warren Davis and Kathi Davis.

Returning top racer Joe Schlimmer of Ithaca, NY and Briana Fitzgerald of Scotia, NY have entered as a Mixed Team. Entering in a recreational canoe are Bob Wyman of Swanzey, NH and Sam Wyman of Keene, NH. Clark Drake of Sunderland and Ashley Drake of Charlemont will be riding the river in an aluminum canoe along with Joe Perkins of Warren and Miko Wagan of Hartford, CT.  Father and daughter team Paul Lyman and Natalie Lyman of Orange can compete for the Local Team trophy, as can Robert Wilson of Orange and Stacy Wilson of Athol. Traveling from Ballston Lake, NY, is Alec Davis and paddle partner Roger Henry of Rexford, NY.

John Rose of Phillipston and his cousin Patricio de la Mora of Mexico are newcomers to the race this year. Seasoned Rat Racer and trophy winner Nick Lyesiuk of Orange and Doug Howard of Townsend, Vermont, and first-timers Kaitlyn McCarthy of Orange and Paul Blanchette of Jaffrey, NH will share in the challenge. Allie Barnes of Orange and Stephanie Berkman of Providence, RI will be racing in the recreational class, and Local Team contestants Skilah Britt of Orange and Alexis Wilbur of Athol will experience the river competition for their first time.

The River Rat Race is open to all, from professional paddlers to newcomers. The entry fee is $42 per canoe. The deadline to register is 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 11. Athol Lions will be at the Athol Daily News office, 225 Exchange St., to take the final registrations to be included in the post positions drawing on Friday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Athol Town Hall.

Registration forms can be found at Applications are also available at the Athol Daily News front office, 225 Exchange Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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