Kenduskeag organizers, volunteers bracing for race day

Paddlers make their way from Kenduskeag to Bangor during the 44th annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race in 2010.
Bridget Brown | BDN FILE
Paddlers make their way from Kenduskeag to Bangor during the 44th annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race in 2010.
Posted April 14, 2011, at 12:57 p.m.
Last modified April 14, 2011, at 11:04 p.m.

BANGOR — Wayne Andrews, Cathie Spaulding, and Dave Martin have never raced a canoe or kayak in any of the 44 previous Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Races, but the annual rite of spring has become a nearly integral part of their lives just the same.

Well before the first paddle is thrust into the frigid waters of the Kenduskeag Saturday morning, these three — and many others — already will have put in a lot of hours and effort into making the race experience safer and more enjoyable for hundreds of paddling participants.

“We start planning for this around mid-February,” said Martin, president of Dirigo Search and Rescue, which coordinates operations with people from four different safety and rescue organizations for the 16 1/2-mile race that draws upward of 900 paddlers in 500 canoes or kayaks. “We assemble at 7:30 a.m. and stay until about 4.”

That’s sleeping late as far as Spaulding and Andrews are concerned.

They meet up at Kenduskeag’s Mystic Tie Grange Hall — maybe not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but ready to go — to set up the annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race Breakfast.

“I’m a morning person, so I’m raring to go when I get there. I can’t say the same for everyone else though,” she said with a laugh. “But usually everyone’s got a smile on their face by 5, after they’ve had their first or second coffee. We’re usually done by noon.”

The breakfast costs $6 per person and is served from 6 to 9 a.m.

Proceeds from the breakfast go toward buying dictionaries for all second-graders in town, Thanksgiving dinners for local needy families and individuals, and Grange scholarships for graduating seniors.

Spaulding is Mystic Tie Grange chairman and although Andrews is master, Spaulding rules the kitchen.

“She has everything figured to the last pound, and we’re usually right to the penny in terms of coming out even,” said Andrews. “The hardest part is getting everything ready and cooked.”

“I have to say the last four years, we’ve had minimal stuff left over. I think last year we ran out of ham, but had extra sausage,” said Spaulding, a former master. “That rarely happens, and anything we have left over we give to the homeless shelter.”

Spaulding doesn’t miss a beat when asked how much of everything she rounds up from local merchants who donate all the food and supplies needed to put on the grange’s largest annual fundraiser, which usually attracts about 300 people and generates around $2,000.

“I reach out to the community for donations and I run around like a chicken with my head cut off for a month or a month and a half,” said Spaulding, who has been organizing this breakfast for seven years. “We have 45 dozen eggs, 60 pounds of ham, 60 pounds of precut potatoes, 500 (premade and frozen) pancakes, 15 dozen muffins, 10 gallons of orange juice, 10 gallons of milk, two giant cans of coffee grounds, and even some tea and hot chocolate.”

Oh, and two massive pots of baked pea and brown beans prepared by Rita Weymouth using an old family recipe — plus about 25 volunteers to set up, cook, serve and clean up everything.

Martin manages about 40-50 search and rescue personnel representing Dirigo, Lincoln Search and Rescue, Midcoast Search and Rescue, and Down East Emergency Medicine Institute.

“We have a different group cover a certain part of the course, like Cedar Falls, Six-Mile Falls, and Maxfield Dam,” said Martin, who has been the safety coordinator for the race since 1981.

Martin and Dirigo have maintained their long association with the race for more than just the donation the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department gives it.

“One of the reasons we’ve stayed with it so long is it’s a terrific training exercise,” said Martin. “It’s a big project and a lot of people get involved in the organization and execution of it and that’s invaluable training in itself.”

Martin is expecting low water conditions, meaning most of the action will be at Six-Mile Falls and involve more bumps and bruises than anything else.

“What we do see a lot of is hypothermia, particularly on the low end. A lot of people aren’t dressed properly,” he said.

To limit those bumps, bruises and possible breaks, Martin offered this advice:

“I think there are two or three things people need to keep in mind: No alcohol, stay on the upstream side of the canoe if you dump because a canoe floating downstream essentially weighs about 3,500 pounds with that current behind it, and don’t have anything attached to your clothing, such as a paddle.”

While they all have different responsibilities and tasks to perform, Spaulding, Martin and Andrews have a couple things in common: Their appreciation for the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race and the people who they’ve come to know over the years because of it.

“There’s a guy who’s come all the way from England the last two years,” said Spaulding. “He vacations here specifically so he can do this race and he comes to the breakfast.”

“We’ve made a lot of friends and some of them we only see this one time of the year,” Andrews said. “I guess that’s one of the things that makes this special.”

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