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LakeFest Sets Sights On New World Record

Thomas P. Caldwell - July 22, 2013


NH Lakes Association President Tom O’Brien and Vice-President of Education and Communication Andrea LaMoreaux indicate the location where canoeists and kayakers will be congregating in September in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record during LakeFest: Hands Across The Water.

Registration is underway for LakeFest 2013: Hands Across The Water, sponsored by the NH Lakes Association, Inc., in which organizers hope to break a Guinness World Record set in 2011. The main event for the Sept. 7 celebration, based at Endicott Rock Park at Weirs Beach in Laconia, will have participants in canoes and kayaks linking hands to form the largest canoe and kayak raft ever to form on a single body of water.

Inspiration for the event came from One Square Mile of Hope which, on Sept. 24, 2011, recorded 1,902 boats on Fourth Lake in Inlet NY, a number that stands in Guinness World Records.

According to NH Lakes Association President Tom O’Brien, the contest seemed to be the perfect way to bring together boaters for a fun and instructional event that would promote goodwill in the community while also advancing one of the organization’s primary goals: education.

O’Brien explained that the NH Lakes Association works with other lake groups looking to protect the state’s 1,000 lakes and ponds, as well as their watersheds, particularly through the Lake Host program that engages 240 part-time seasonal workers along with about 500 volunteers. The NH Lakes Association provides training and works through a statewide employment system to re-grant funds to match the money spent on local payrolls.

The Lake Host program has people going out to the boat ramps and lake access points to teach boaters about the dangers of spreading invasive species — or, more recently, “aquatic nuisance species” — which can pose massive problems for the lakes and continued recreational use. Lake Hosts teach boaters to clean and inspect their boats when entering or leaving a new body of water to halt the spread of milfoil and other aquatic weeds as well as zebra mussels and Asian clams.

Milfoil now impacts some 75 lakes, wrapping around boat propellers and catching the legs of swimmers, turning pleasant recreational activities into annoying and undesirable battles with the weed. It is very difficult to get rid of, once established in a lake, because if not killed with chemicals or pulled out entirely, the remaining milfoil will continue to grow, sometimes as much as an inch a day.

The zebra mussel and Asian clam are newer pests for the most part, but their spread has alarmed the lake community.

O’Brien said his organization tries to raise people’s awareness of how their physical lifestyles are impacting water quality through storm runoff, as well. The focus is on prevention to avoid the more difficult process of correcting a problem that established itself.

While the educational efforts at the boat ramps has made a big difference, only about 15 percent of the state’s access points are covered by Lake Hosts and the aquatic nuisance species have been spreading.

O’Brien notes that, while power boats and trailers are the easiest ways for the nuisance species to spread, they also can spread through the use of canoes and kayaks. “Although they’re less of a threat, they still pose some threat,” O’Brien said, noting that the smaller boats can go anywhere and there is no systematic way to reach paddlers.


One Square Mile of Hope, 9/24/11, as 1,902 canoes and kayaks come together to form the world largest floating raft on Fourth Lake in Inlet, NY. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

That is where Hands Across The Water comes in. Rather than going out to find canoeists and kayakers, LakesFest will bring them to one area where the lake organization will be able to reach them with information about the nuisance species and ways they can help to halt the spread.

It is as easy as spraying off the canoe or kayak at the end of the day and then letting it dry for five days. For the weekend paddler, that means cleaning the boat on Sunday night and letting it dry until the next weekend.

Those arriving for Hands Across The Water will be asked to check in at inspection stations to certify that their craft have been cleaned before they enter the lake, and there may be some cleaning stations available for those that have not been cleaned.

O’Brien said they are encouraging people to come between noon and 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, a day ahead of the event, to get through the inspection system. There will be security provided overnight to protect the boats, and the inspections will resume at 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Prior to the main event on Saturday, there will be a paddling excursion from Akwa Marina in The Weirs and another, three-mile excursion from Meredith Bay, the latter coordinated by Ekal Activity Center at Church Landing.

The main event, which should be visually exciting as well as fun for all involved, will begin at 10 a.m., with the raft forming between 10 and 11. The NH Lakes Association has arranged for an aerial photographer to capture the moment, both as part of the required proof for Guinness World Records and to provide souvenir photos for the participants to purchase.

Water will be provided to keep participants properly hydrated during the day.

Light rain will not affect the event but, should there be heavy rain or strong winds, the event will be postponed to the next day. The association is working on alternative vantage points for photographs in case the weather prevents the helicopter from flying.

After the world record event, paddlers will be invited to return to Endicott Rock Park for musical entertainment by local bands while they visit educational booths staffed by various lake groups. There also will be canoe and kayak rentals for those without their own boats.

O’Brien said the event is not intended as a fundraiser for his organization or its partner, the Lake Winnisquam Watershed Association of Gilford. The $15 participation fee is aimed at covering the costs of the event, which include city permits and the hiring of safety personnel, along with logistical help and the educational materials.

“We kept the price low so more boats can participate,” O’Brien said, adding, “We’re trying to design it not to lose money.”

He noted that there will be swag bags for the first 2,000 boats registered, and the names of all who pre-register by Aug. 15 will be placed in a drawing for an Old Town canoe that will be awarded at the end of the day.

The NH Lakes Association also has arranged with the MS Mount Washington for a discounted dinner cruise on Friday evening, Sept. 6.

“We coordinated it all with The Mount and the Weirs Action Committee, to make sure we’re not interfering with their businesses,” said O’Brien. “We’re trying to create mutual gains with the local associations, and the Weirs Beach community and the City of Laconia have been tremendously helpful.”

He said a lot of planning has gone into the first-of-its-kind event in the Lakes Region. “As an organization, we try to encourage people to go to places that can accommodate them, and Weirs Beach is ideal for this one. Taking place the weekend after Labor Day, it will provide a boost to the economy, and several local proprietors are providing parking on a donation basis to help us out.”

The NH Lakes Association is lining up help from the NH Marine Patrol, the Laconia Fire and Police departments, pontoon boat operators, ham radio operators, and DASH (diver-assisted suction harvesting) boats to see that the safety issues and traffic control are properly handled. They are looking at modifying traffic on Lakeside Boulevard to allow people to drop off their boats before heading to the various parking areas.

Because the world record was set with just canoes and kayaks, those are the only craft being allowed this year, O’Brien said, but he noted that he has seen so much demand that, if they do it again another year, they will likely pursue a new record that would include paddle boards as well.

For more information on LakeFest 2013: Hands Across The Lake, see

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