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Canoe Race Ushers in Spring in North Central Mass

Central MA

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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

The annual River Rat Race is a terrific tradition of spring in North Central Massachusetts, started 56 years ago by local residents who loved canoeing on the mighty Miller River.  The day-long outdoor celebration takes place on Saturday, April 13, 2019, and includes a running race, parade and canoe race. The day begins with the Big Cheese 5K race, where runners both local and from across the region take a fun and challenging run through the community. This race appeals to both competitive and non-competitive runners and also encourages walkers to participate. Wearing costumes are highly encouraged.

Following the race is a festive parade in downtown Athol, which kicks off on School Street near Our Lady Immaculate Church, then proceeds to Main Street, ending at Lord Pond Plaza. The centerpiece of the day is the River Rat Race, which features 200+ canoes in teams of two competing against each other on a 5.2 mile course, cheered on by hundreds of residence gathered along the side of the river. During and following the race, friends and families host cookouts and barbeques along the scenic river banks, enjoying the spring weather and bringing together the communities of Athol and Orange well as people from around New England. The winner is announced at the end of the race on local radio station WVA0 105.9FM and receives a cash prize.  Then the action shifts to Orange River Front Park, where canoeists, volunteers, families and friends gather to relive the memorable moments of the race.


Photo Credit: Catherine Gullage

North Central Massachusetts is a beautiful setting any time of year for visitors to enjoy.  It is close to the Mohawk Trail and the Johnny Appleseed Trail, surrounded by beautiful lakes, state parks and open space.   The River Rat Race is just one of hundreds of activities taking place year round.

Find more details at massvacation.com.

Rebecca Chin is a MOTT intern this spring, and a senior at Fitchburg State College, studying marketing communications.

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