SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan’s five-day River Fest that begins Tuesday isn’t just about fun, food, fireworks and wacky bed races through the middle of downtown; it’s also about focusing attention on the $4.3 million Run of River white-water park proposed for the Kennebec Gorge.

Organizers hope the park, now 12 years in the making, will bring visitors to Skowhegan as a destination point.

The objective of Run of River is to create white-water waves at 10 man-made structures in three locations to attract boaters, kayakers, paddlers, tubers and rafters for a park-and-play destination, waves for surfers and body boarders and an 1,800-foot run for rafting and kayaking.

Town Manager Christine Almand said the fun stuff this week is a way of keeping the proposed white-water park in the public eye for possible construction as early as next year.

“River Fest was based on the idea of this Run of River white-water rafting facility that they’ve been working on for over a decade now,” Almand said. “There’s a lot of stakeholders involved, between public and private partnership. These events are for us to be able to enjoy our local resources — the river that runs right through town.”

Almand said summer tourists come through Skowhegan going north to white-water sites in The Forks, and south to Maine beaches. It only makes sense, she said, to try to offer them good reasons to stop and play in the Kennebec along the way.


The project also would improve physical and visual access to the gorge by creating two footpaths down to the river and terraced seating along the shore.

Planning for the park began in 2004, and town officials finally saw a digital model of the park in February 2014. An $80,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture rural business opportunity grant was used to complete engineering of a digital model of the park, a requirement for the many permits the park will need. The model will have to pass scrutiny of the permitting agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Maine’s Indian tribes also will weigh in on the project, as will Maine historic preservation groups.

Funding for the park would come from state and federal agencies, along with private businesses and money sheltered from the Sappi paper mill’s tax increment financing district.

McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group conducted a topographic survey of the river bottom, developed a hydraulic model and evaluated the white-water features in the gorge.

The Run of River Committee, with president Greg Dore, the town’s road commissioner, is working with Planning Decisions Inc. and Main Street Skowhegan to draft a business plan for the project to chart its economic impact, Almand said. The committee will use the plan as a fundraising tool. There also have been grants from the Maine Community Foundation, and Skowhegan Savings Bank has contributed to the project.

The models and studies that have been done so far can be found on the town’s website.


River Fest began as Skowhegan Log Days to commemorate the last of the log drives down the Kennebec in the 1970s, but it evolved over the years to include many events not originally part of the logging and timber competitions.

Log Days was discontinued in 2002 after 25 years, taking the popular Moonlight Madness with it, until it was resurrected briefly as Harvest Days by the Downtown Business Association in 2007, which later folded into Main Street Skowhegan. Then there was Summer Fest.

Now it’s River Fest.

The fun begins at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with a Lions Club chicken barbecue lunch inside the Big Top in the municipal parking lot and continues with a show of classic cars at 4:30 p.m., a chicken barbecue dinner at 5 p.m. and a concert by the Skowhegan Community Band at 5:30 p.m.

On Wednesday there is bingo in the Big Top and a brewery tour from 5:30 to 10 p.m., beginning at Bloomfield’s Tavern.

Thursday is the big day of fun, with Moonlight Madness from 6 to 10 p.m., closing downtown streets for music and food, and at 7 p.m. the annual bed races down Water Street. The Sundowner Canoe and Kayak Race is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the historic Swinging Bridge behind the Federated Church.


Friday will feature the Skowhegan Rotary Club annual lobster feed in the Big Top from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., followed by the Glow Stick river run at 8:30 p.m. Activities wind down Saturday with a day full of events, including raft rides down the gorge from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and culminating with a fireworks display at the Great Eddy of the Kennebec River, east of downtown. For further details, go to

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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