BANGOR — For the 50th consecutive year, paddlers made their way Saturday down the Kenduskeag Stream in a rite of spring.

For serious paddlers, the goal was to win the 16-mile river race. For others, it was simply to avoid getting dumped in the 40-degree water.

Zip Kellogg, who participated in the first race in 1967, kept up his tradition of standing as his canoe went down Six Mile Falls, a spot notorious for flipped canoes. He helped start the tradition of goofy costumes worn by many participants by showing up for the race in a double-breasted suit in the 1970s.

“It’s just kind of silly,” he said. “I stuck with it.”

Over the years, tens of thousands of people have paddled in the race, and more than 500 participants joined in the tradition on Saturday, said Debbie Gendreau, assistant director of the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department, which organizes the annual event.

The race was started by Lew Gilman and Ed “Sonny” Colburn. Gilman went on to work for Old Town Canoe Co. and died in 2011. Colburn participated on Saturday by riding in a canoe paddled by family members.


In good weather, people line the banks of the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor to cheer on the paddlers and to groan when they fail to negotiate Six Mile Falls.

Kellogg, a Bangor native, recalled the first time he attempted the falls. He and his swim team coach crashed into another boat that got stuck at the falls.

“Our boat went sideways and completely broke apart,” he said before the race. “We were washed through, and there were boat parts flying around.”

Race coordinator Debbie Gendreau said Saturday that turnout was the best it’s been in a decade.

“We had 921 participants in 493 boats,” Gendreau said. “It’s beautiful out here. It’s absolutely a perfect day for this.”

She said there were some minor mishaps at Six Mile Falls “but no broken bones.”

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