SKOWHEGAN — Competitors at an annual Skowhegan River Fest boat race Thursday will be paddling for the first time in 12-seat war canoes.

A team from St. George, Quebec, suggested the change, and John Alsop, one of the event organizers, said he thinks the 12-seat, 28-foot-long canoes will be an exciting switch the from the two-person canoes the Quebecois and Mainers used in previous years at the Sundowner Race.

Alsop said the same group of people from St. George come to Skowhegan each year for the annual race and they have fun getting to know each other during the sporting event.

“It’s fun. Every year, we’re getting a little better with our French and they’re getting a little better with their English,” he said.

Alsop said the group from St. George suggested the war canoe race several months ago.

Alsop said the style of canoes are gaining popularity in the Bangor area and are also used by members of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

The canoes to be used in the race are six of a set of 11 used by the Penobscot Riverkeepers, a group focused on educating Penobscot River watershed and coastal communities about river-related issues.

Mike Maybury, a member of the Riverkeepers, said he made the first two canoes for a local Boy Scout Troop and the other nine were made for the riverkeepers and crafted from the same mold.

Registration for the six-mile race on the Kennebec River starts at 4:30 p.m. and the race starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Swinging Bridge near 2 Weston Ave.

The war canoes, also known as rabaskas in Canada, were used by Canadian fur trappers and American Indians, according to Alsop.

The canoes have since evolved into the outdoor recreation field and sports.

The Quebec club plans on bringing enough paddlers for one and a half boats. Alsop said they will not know how many Mainers will attend until registration the day of the race.

The annual recreational canoe and kayak race will also be held at the same time.

The race is part of the Skowhegan River Fest, the town’s annual celebration of living along the Kennebec River, and includes live music, children’s activities, a pub crawl, free rafting rides in the Kennebec Gorge, a 5K race and fireworks at 8:45 p.m. Sunday.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]