Orange residents get creative for Solstice Riverfest’s boat parade

  • Beth and Chris Duguay paddle along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Spectators line the South Main Street bridge to watch the daylight portion of the lighted boat parade along the Millers River on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Boats paddle along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Zachary Graziano, 11, paddles past one of the floating fires along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Spectators line the bank of the Millers River to watch the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Paula Boyle and Will Stoddard paddle their dragon boat along the Millers River for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Beth and Chris Duguay launch their boat out onto the Millers River for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Spectators line the South Main Street bridge to watch the daylight portion of the lighted boat parade along the Millers River on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Zachary Graziano, 11, paddles on the Millers River with his Viking ship for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Zachary Graziano, 11, prepares to paddle out onto the Millers River with his Viking ship for the lighted boat parade Saturday night during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Julie Moore, left, leads a yoga session on the lawn at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Kay Kilian, 4, has her face painted by Nicole Kirrane at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Stacy Jordan, 3, has her face painted by Nicole Kirrane at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Kendall Meuse, 4, blows bubbles with her grandmother Michelle Leblanc at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • People gather at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Vendors line the streets along Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Children play on the lawn at Riverfront Park on Saturday evening during the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 10:19:28 AM

ORANGE — Clumps of green and purple balloons, tied into bunches with string, trailed Lori Perkins’ kayak as she paddled a stretch of the Millers River Saturday night.

It was easy to see what Perkins, representing local Home Fruit Wines, was doing with her display — the balloons were large clusters of grapes.

Perkins’ was one of several creative vessels out on the water for the sixth annual Orange Solstice Riverfest, an event that features a lighted boat parade of customized and costumed canoes and kayaks each year.

As she paddled, her “grapes” dragged along the calm waters.

“They’re fermenting right now!” she quipped.

The Orange Solstice Riverfest delivered a day of fun on Saturday, with food vendors, a road race and softball game and floating fires on the Millers River as well as the boat parade, all in celebration of the beginning of summer.

“We’re all here to make a community event awesome,” said Jerry Whaland, who was happy to help boaters in and out of the water from his canoe-rental business by Riverfront Park.

But the event was more than just the boats.

Kicking off this year’s Riverfest was a first-ever softball game between a co-ed team of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School students and a team made up of members of the town’s Police Department and Fire Department.

A sizeable crowd showed up for the game, with members of both teams in good spirits, including Mahar baseball player Charlie Barnes and Tim Powling of the Orange Police Department. Powling was confident of victory before the game, but Barnes had no retort for the officer, who also happens to be his football coach.

Despite being young and spry, the “Mahar All-Stars’” hope of hoisting a trophy was extinguished by the “Safety Sluggers,” who won the match 11 to 10.

According to Brenda Anderson, an organizer of the event, the community is always looking for new ideas for Riverfest, and this year’s softball game was a real hit.

“Any community member who says something like, ‘Hey, we should do a fishing derby,’ or something like that, we are open to ideas,” Anderson said.

The Orange Solstice Riverfest is a community-building event thought up six years ago by a group of Orange residents and friends as a way to have fun while using downtown Orange’s natural resource, the Millers River, explained Anderson, who is the co-owner of Trail Head Outfitter and General Store.

“It’s just a community thing,” Anderson said. “One day, we were sitting around and all said, ‘We should do something on the river.’”

This year, Anderson said, was better than some in the past, with a good turnout in terms of onlookers, vendors and boats. Some years, like 2018, have been rather drizzly, with less-than-ideal conditions to celebrate the start of summer.

“It was wonderful this year,” Anderson said. “Mother nature helped us out tremendously.”

The hallmark of each year is the lighted boat parade, and this year, several creative vessels were out on the water, including dragon-, flower-, viking- and pirate-themed boats.

At night, the lights strung on the boats lit up, giving those watching from Riverfront Park, the nearby bridge or by the fire station a beautiful display.

The boats were judged in four categories, with winners getting $50 gift certificates.

The winner of “Best Business Boat” was Quabbin Harvest Community Food Co-op’s vessel, which was two kayaks, one yellow and one green, attached together — two-peas-in-a-pod. Winning “Best Framily (Family or Friends) Boat” was Paula Boyle and Will Stoddard, whose canoe was made into a neon green dragon.

Winning the “Best Nonprofit Boat” prize was the Wheeler Memorial Library boat, which was space-themed and celebrated 50 years since the moon landing, while also encouraging people to get involved in the 102-year-old library’s “universe of stories” summer reading. And, Zachary Graziano, 11, won “Best Loner (solo) Boat” with his kayak he transformed into a Viking ship for the event.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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