MONMOUTH — When Kaylie Stevens arrived at Cochnewagon Lake on Saturday, she had no idea that a little more than an hour later she’d be putting her faith in buoyancy.

Being 8 years old, she probably wasn’t thinking about that when she entered the Cochnewagon Corrugated Cardboard Canoe race.

For that hour, Kaylie, sister Keara, and brother, Kedan, and their mother, Felicia Stevens, worked steadily to make a large cardboard box into a boat on the fly.

As they worked and talked across each other, arguing about how much tape should go where, people were starting to gather at the boat launch for the Monmouth Beach Party, the town’s annual summer event.

Around them people made their way to food trucks and tables, or headed over to the beach to take a quick dip in the lake before the 3:30 p.m. scheduled start of the race.

As other competitors put the finishing touches on their own craft, or waited for the race to start, the Stevenses concentrated on covering the bottom of the boat in different colors of duct tape to make it seaworthy, but really, the emphasis was on making it colorful, with pink and purple tape being liberally, if not neatly, applied.


“I want to take this home,” Kaylie said, and then after a moment, thought it might not fit in the car.

There was a moment of indecision on whether she should change into her bathing suit, but all too soon, it was time to get a paddle and a life jacket and head down to the beach.

August Williams, 5, competes Saturday in the Cochnewagon Corrugated Cardboard Canoe race Saturday during the annual Monmouth Beach Party in Monmouth center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The water is a balmy 70 degrees,” race announcer Kent Ackley said.

In all, about a dozen people competed in two heats, roughly divided by age.

Boats of all shapes, sizes, colors and design lined up for their chance at glory, and that glory would come in all kinds — first to sink, first to reach the turn, first to finish, bravest, best team (only one team competed), last to finish.

Kaylie’s boat, Firework, complete with a Katy Perry theme song by the same name, was in the first heat.


The launch can only be described as chaotic as boats bottle-necked in the shallows and the first boat sank less than 10 feet from the shore.

Madelyn Goodwin from Monmouth claimed the glory as the winner of the first heat, after she navigated her cardboard canoe out around the lifeguards stationed off shore and back to the shore.

Kaylie’s boat didn’t make it that far, because in the Firework tipped on its side and it turns out she doesn’t much like deep water.

The second heat went slightly better than the first, with Lila Poussard making a strong and decisive start and an equally strong finish.

For Dan Roy, who heads up the committee that puts on the annual event, fun is the goal for the day.

“Five days ago, it looked like we were going to have to cancel it and go with the rain date (of Sunday), but then we wouldn’t have the live band,” Roy, who is also Monmouth’s fire chief, said. “We’re fortunate the weather cleared out.”


The Beach Party got its start at a meeting of the town’s Economic Development Committee when Roy suggested putting on a summer event to generate some interest in Monmouth. That’s how he got to be in charge of the event.

Every year since then, with the exception of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all public gatherings, the party has been scheduled for early July, usually during the weekend of the Fourth of July, but not on the holiday to avoid competing with the fireworks show on Norcross Point in Winthrop, Roy said.

Madelyn Goodwin, 10, of Monmouth was first to finish in the junior division of the Cochnewagon Corrugated Cardboard Canoe race Saturday during the annual Monmouth Beach Party in Monmouth center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

As he kept an eye on the inflation of the bounce house, he said his hope every year is not to have rain on the big day, because so much work goes into organizing the event, from lining up the food trucks to finding a band and reaching out to secure sponsors.

The 5 p.m. start of the event was still more than half an hour away, with a performance by Fire in the Hole, a new band this year, and fireworks at dusk.

The Beach Party’s goal is to shine a light on the advertisers — many are local businesses — and to bring new people to Monmouth to see what the town has to offer.

“Really, what we shoot for is to see a good-sized crowd,” he said. “We’d like to see like 1,000 people. A lot of it is more local residents, but we open it to anybody in public. The word is getting out that we put on a good event.”

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