One reason the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race has endured as a popular symbol of spring in these parts is the fact that anybody can find a way to enjoy the event.
Some truly compete against the other paddlers in their division, hoping to place well.
Other participants don’t worry much about that, and figure that just completing the course is prize enough.
Some folks decide that they’ll have more fun if they stay on dry land and flock to popular spots like Six Mile Falls to watch the canoes pile up.
And others — those who live along the banks of the stream, like Bob Noyes — open their homes to friends and family members for yearly race parties.
Noyes lives about a half-mile above Six Mile Falls, on the Hudson Road. On Saturday, he renewed his family’s tradition of gathering on the banks of the Kenduskeag and cheering on the participants.
Food and drink were abundant. So was good cheer.
“We’ve been doing it for quite a few years,” Noyes said, sitting down for a spell between snacks, stoking a nearby fire and serenading paddlers on his trumpet. “It’s one of the biggest celebrations we have other than Groundhog Day. We make a big deal out of Groundhog Day, but we enjoy this. We play the trumpet a little bit and encourage all the boaters.”
I’m still not sure whether Noyes was serious about the Groundhog Day celebration, but one thing was certain: He and his friends and family members certainly like to celebrate during the canoe race.
“Woohoo!” Avis Jenkins yelled, offering her own special brand of encouragement to the passing paddlers.
The rest of the partygoers were silent, and Jenkins decided that wouldn’t do.
“You guys are not woohoo-ing enough,” she scolded with a smile.
Future paddlers, it turned out, were more sufficiently woohooed, thanks to Jenkins’ efforts.
Noyes regularly plays his trumpet, eliciting answering calls of “Charge!” from his charges after one predictable tune, and groans from paddlers after he solemnly plays “Taps.”
Six Mile Falls is, after all, just around the corner.
If Noyes takes a break and the music stops, some paddlers notice. Many participants have grown accustomed to the man with the trumpet and expect to hear his tunes every year.
“Where’s the trumpet?” one kayaker asked as he paddled past.
Noyes scrambled to a nearby picnic table, picked up his horn and gave the paddler what he wanted.
Noyes said that some race participants have dropped in for a visit in past years. On Saturday, as of noontime none had pulled ashore for a pit stop.
“We have done a few buffets for people passing through,” Noyes said. “We don’t do that as much as we used to. And we have had people flip over right here in the flat water and we’ve had to help them out of the water. There’s no rescue around here. Just us.”
Noyes enjoys staying on shore during the race but says he tried his luck on the stream’s most famous rapids a few years back.
“I took my paddle boat the day after the race, down over the falls. I thought that would be a good idea,” Noyes said. “[Local disc jockey] Bobby Russell kind of talked me into doing that. It wasn’t a very good idea.”
Nowadays, Noyes leaves the paddling to others and is content to cheer on the competitors. Some are fast. Some slow. Some are trying the race for the first time. And others, like Zip Kellogg, have been competing in the Kenduskeag for years.
All get a greeting from Noyes and his friends.
Kellogg is famous for his dashing formal wear … and the fact that he makes his way down stream while standing up.
On Saturday, he pulled close to shore to share a few words.
“Thank you for that fine music,” Kellogg said.
Northern lakes socked in
Many of us here in the Bangor area have had the opportunity to fish open water for more than a week now (whether we’ve actually braved the cool breezes and put our boats in the water).
In more northern areas of the state, as you’d expect, anglers are still waiting for spring to fully arrive.
Of course, you already knew that … it only stands to reason that our northern counties lose their snow and ice later than our southern and central ones do.
Still, the e-mail I received from Aroostook County over the weekend was an eye-opener.
Jim Dumond wrote to say that he’d done a bit of ice-checking and thought I’d be interested in what he found out.
“Drilled a hole through Portage Lake this morning with an ice auger and measured 22 inches of ice,” Dumond wrote.
There are signs of spring, however: Dumond says he’s been seeing plenty of wildlife.
“Partridge are really showing up good in the woods,” he wrote. “No deer. Lots of moose.”