Saturday, April 27 - BRIDGEWATER - Participants in this years
raft race will plundge into the Ottaqueeche river this weekend for
the 39th annual Bridgewater Raft Race, a fundraiser for the
Bridgewater Fast Squad.
The squad is a group of volunteers who assist families after car
accidents and similar disasters. It gets a minimal amount of money
from the town, and the rest comes from donations and
"We don't have a specific goal," said Marie Cole, one of the
race's organizers. "I like to see around $3,000, but we'll take
whatever comes in."
The tradition began in April 1974, according to the event's
website, when "Hippie Jim" Cloninger and William "Bear" Massey
decided to honor the Phantom Duck of the Rivers, named after the
Phantom Duck of the Desert from Mojave folklore.
The race started to get some attention when the rafters gave
prizes to the winners. Over the years, the event has grown into a
full day of activities, with prizes donated by area businesses. The
organizers also charge a $5 entry fee and sell T-shirts.
"It all goes to the Bridgewater Fast Squad," Cole said. "None of
us who work it takes any money at all."
The race is open to everyone with a homemade raft and $5. Any
participant under the age of 18 will need a waiver signed by a
parent or guardian. Rules are minimal: Rafts must be homemade,
manufactured hulls and oars are banned, and they must be
self-propelled - homemade oars, poles, and the like. Life jackets
and helmets are recommended. The event is held at the Capossala
home, just west of the Long Trail Brewery and Bridgewater Corners
Country Store. Pre-registration begins at 11 a.m. Numbers and
positions depend entirely on luck.
"At noon, everybody goes to the river and jumps on a raft," Cole
said. "The course runs about three miles, to the smoke stack at the
Bridgewater Mill Mall. We usually have a winner in about 20
First, second and third place winners receive a cash prize.
Prizes are also awarded for Best Raft Name, Most Original Raft, the
Most Challenged Raft, and other fun categories. The Bill Clingan
Memorial Prize will also be awarded. The ceremony at the finish
will be accompanied by live music.
For those not inclined to risk getting soaked in cold river
water, Cole said there is plenty of room for spectators.
"The race is pretty visible from Route 4," Cole said. "There are
a couple of bridges. It's quite a lot of fun."
Cole said the number of participants has fluctuated over the
years. The low point came in 1999, with only seven participants.
But by 2010, the number had grown to 40 and recently the event has
drawn a great deal of interest, once again.
All money raised goes to the Bridgewater Fast Squad, and
donations are tax-deductible. For full information on the race,