Al and Peg relax with their raft “Fearless Fools” at the finish on Dart Island.

Rafters to Float Through Area for Annual River Race

MIDDLETOWN -- Modern-day Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns will be taking to the Connecticut River and floating through the area this weekend during the 29th annual Connecticut River Raft Race.

The cannons will be fired at about 10 a.m. Saturday as the serious, competitive participants and more leisurely rafters start on the river between the Arrigoni Bridge and the Middletown Railroad Bridge. The course ends at the shallows off Dart Island. Spectators -- on land or water -- are encouraged.

New this year to the oldest, largest, continually-run, self-supporting raft race in the country is a kayak and canoe class, said race President Bob Niland. Participants in this class can be singles or multiples in each variety.

Baldwin Lawn Furniture, of 180 Johnson St., was reportedly going to participate in the race, Niland said. The North End furniture company will be using a homemade, 38-foot canoe which about a dozen people will paddle, he said.

Rafters can still register, and the cost is $12 per crew member. The maximum raft size is 12 feet by 36 feet.

"There’s usually 25 to 30 rafts, depending on the weather," Niland said. The canoe and kayak class was added this year because it has become very popular, he said.

"It’s a nice time for them because of the amount of boats and rafts," he said. Kayakers and canoeists do not often get a weekend day without wakes on the river, Niland added. "It calms down in the race."

"It’s a great time," he said. "We’re looking forward to it. Sometimes it’s more of a parade than a race."

Once the race is done, the participants -- and any water-accessible spectators -- will have a barbecue with a band playing down off Dart Island.

Any profits made from T-shirt sales during the race will be donated to local non-profit agencies, Niland said. In past years, the raft race organization has donated to Kidcity Children’s Museum and the Russell Library.

For more information on the race, go to the Web site at

To contact Amy L. Zitka, call (860)347-3331 ext. 211.

Copyright © 2003, The Middletown Press

MLA citation: Zitka, Amy L. " Rafters to float through area for annual river race." The Middletown Press, 1 August 2003. Print

MLA in-text citation: (Zitka)